Culture Writing

Repeat after me

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  • Boys will be boys
  • It’s not over until it’s over
  • It is what it is
  • I am what I am
  • What will be will be
  • A win is a win
  • It ain’t over till it’s over
  • A man got to do what a man got to do….etc.

And if a deadline-enforcer says “If it’s late, it’s late,” the response might be “But it’s not late late.” Here repetition indicates that the canoncial meaning of late it intended. It’s not late late, it’s just a little late.

Tautologies, like metaphors, break things down to their essence. They make things easier to accept so we can move on with the business of living.

Read How to use repetition


The Coltrane Doctrine


John Coltrane and Einstein shared interests in mathematical principles. In response to the Coltrane doctrine, Thelonious Monk replied: “All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”

Read this and more in this week’s newsletter


What you hear influences what you see


“I’ve got a theory that what you hear influences – maybe even determines – what you see.”

— Paul Theroux, in one of the best train literature novels The Great Railway Bazaar


Unlimited memory


“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.

via Daily Prompt: Champion

Books Life & Philosophy Quotes

Teju Cole on travel playlists

“The music you travel with helps you to create your own internal weather.” Teju Cole, Known and Strange Things: Essays #books #quotes #amreading #playlist

“The music you travel with helps you to create your own internal weather.”

Teju Cole, Known and Strange Things: Essays
Life & Philosophy Science

‘Competence without comprehension’

We are skilled without even thinking — what Thomas H. Huxley in 1874 called ‘conscious automata’ and what American philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett calls, ‘competence without comprehension’ in his new book From Bacteria to Bach: The Evolution of Minds.

Automatic pilot comes handy when we’re doing things like driving a car or reading. We need to master these things before we can do more advanced activities, like race car driving or writing.

Instead, what happens in repetitive tasks is that we forget how to feel the process. We become pre-programmed robots trained to execute learned habits.

Technology, and more specifically, artificial intelligence and Google encourage non-thinking behavior.  We suspend our cognitive wiring to appease our ignorance with a click of a button. The will to learn loses out to screen pecking. As Herbert Simon once wrote, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

So if God gave us brains, why don’t we use these thinking tools to do more than share ‘memes?’


Ralph Ellison on the American experience


“The values of my own people are neither ‘white’ nor ‘black,’ they are American. Nor can I see how they could be anything else, since we are people who are involved in the texture of the American experience.”

— Ralph Ellison (via Teju Cole Known and Strange Things: Essays)

Life & Philosophy Newsletter Tech

Dancing with Fear, How Music Affects Your Productivity, New Radiohead, and More

Image by Wells Baum

Arts & Culture

The Artists Way in an Age of Self Promotion

According to the 90-9-1 rule of social media, most people prefer to scan and curate the feeds. But the ease of producing and sharing content on Snapchat and Instagram flips this old rule on its head. Everyone is born creative – we all carry genius – but how many people declaring themselves ‘creative’ today actually live up to it?

““Creative” was among the top ten most used words in LinkedIn profiles last year, and, these days, “creative” is a noun that can be used for anyone in the workforce who doesn’t engage in doctoring, lawyering, writing code, or doing hard labor.” – Carrie Battan


Radiohead, Misfits Once Again, This Time ‘Burn the Witch’

Radiohead’s new album drops today. The band deleted their web presence prior to the album launch, proving once again that doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing drives extra awareness. This is a blog post I wrote on how Radiohead thrives on being different.

Radiohead is the Apple of bands, an outsider group that retains its creativity and sells to the masses without selling out its brand. It’s all about taking music to the next level.

Philosophy & Productivity

How Music Affects Your Productivity — Life Learning

Working to the radio or a mixtape may disrupt your focus. On the other hand, working to familiar music may boost your concentration and productivity. The brain prefers a consistent flow of ambient noise rather than the stimulation of new sound. There are some helpful sonic recommendations in this piece.

“While the “journey” of new music can be beneficial in other ways, it’s best to tread a familiar path if you are using music to get things done.”

Research backs up the instinct that walking improves creativity

Stressed? Go for a walk. Got writer’s block? Walk. Want to be better at noticing the world? Go for a walk. You can even do walking meetings. Walking may be boring, but in this hyper-connected world that’s exactly why it’s effective: it turns you off and slows you down. → Writing by walking.

““Part of why walking, I think, is important is it can be boring. It’s that very aspect that causes your mind to go back and revisit, even subconsciously, on what you’ve been analyzing and learning,” she says.”


Social Media & Tech


Technology connects the world, but it also destroys many of the things we once enjoyed, like our presence. According to French entrepreneur Tariq Krim, all this digitization has long-term deleterious effects on our human identity, discovery, and mindfulness.

“We need to give people access to other choices, other life narratives, other tools, and other ideologies. A sort of “organic sustainable slow technology” that fights this commoditization of everything online and offline.”


New Music

Episode 86 | Tunes of the Week

  1. Thornato – Deux a Deux
  2. Connie Constance – Answer
  3. Ash Walker – They Do Not Know Yet
  4. Skinshape – Detroit
  5. Kinkajous – All Kinds

🎵 Listen here

Thought of the Week

“Dance with the fear. Use fear as a compass to push you toward bringing your best creative work to life.” – Seth Godin

Arts Culture Newsletter Tech

The 1996 Chicago Bulls, Nike’s Extension into Fashion, Tips for Living the Creative Life, Social Media Narcissism, and more

Arts & Culture

The Oral History of the 1996 Chicago Bulls

The only way Michael Jordan would agree to filming the movie Space Jam is if they built him a dome where he could workout and practice. The following 95-96 season the Bulls won 72 games in the regular season. Players, coaches, and reporters recount Jordan’s Airness:

“Ahmad Rashad: The great things that you saw Michael do in games, there was way more of that in practice. Watching him practice was like sneaking into a dress rehearsal of a great musician.”

At Nike, Extending the Track to the Runway

It took Nike 15 years to create the Nike Shox, waiting patiently for the materials to catch up to the ideas. Nike is the Apple of the shoe world. Not surprisingly, both companies are going aggressively into fashion. Fashion, Nike is coming for you.

“The effect of all this is simple: While Nike may not overtly identify itself as a fashion brand, and while traditional runway names may not see it as a competitor, to consumers considering what piece of clothing to buy, it increasingly seems like one and the same.”

Philosophy & Productivity

Fear is boring, and other tips for living a creative life

Replace the word creativity with curiosity and you’ll be creative. And while you’re at it, replace “follow your passion” with curiosity too. Everyone is born creative until they lose their sense of wonder. Good read.

curiosity doesn’t take anything from you. Curiosity just gives, and all it gives you are clues, just a beautiful thread, a tiny little clue from the scavenger hunt that you’re unique here in life.

A conversation with Wiwek, the Dutch producer who invented ‘jungle terror’

When forced to come up with a genre, Grime pioneer Wiley called his music “two-step” because there wasn’t anything out there that sounded like it. Similarly, Dutch musician Wiwek only called his music “jungle terror” because that was the only way he could upload songs into SoundCloud. Vibes.

back then you had to put a genre otherwise you couldn’t upload your songs. But you could still use your own words, so you could make up weird shit, and so I just called it “jungle terror” because I couldn’t find another genre for it. And so that’s how the term got online.

Social Media & Tech

I, narcissist – vanity, social media, and the human condition

Social media made narcissism the new obesity, apparently. But the link is not so clear cut. Social media is also a utility, a business tool. DJ Khaled connects with his fans on Snapchat daily. Says another influencer:

“I sometimes spend hours thinking about what to post, thinking about what my followers want, but also what I want them to think about me. But I see it as time well invested: it’s made me successful, well known, and it’s made me money,” says Price, whose name has been changed.

Bonus long read: The American Scholar: Saving the Self in the Age of the Selfie – James McWilliams

New Music

Episode 82 | Tunes of the Week

  1. Morly – If Only Chords
  2. Big Thief – Real Love
  3. Shura – Touch (Four Tet remix)
  4. Anderson .Paak – Room in Here
  5. Bisk – Swampfroot
  6. Wiwek/Skrillex – Killa

🎵 Listen here

Thought of the Week

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” –

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Leonardo da Vinci’s resume, distraction as an ‘obesity for the mind,’ Einstein’s celebrity, new tunes, and more!


Links Worth Reading

Leonardo da Vinci’s resume

“I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.”

So wrote Leonardo da Vinci in his resume to the Duke of Milan. Your future employer cares less about what you’ve done and more about you’re going to do for them. Da Vinci mastered the art of selling himself through his resume. Might we learn from him 500+ years later?

Matthew Crawford: ‘distraction is a kind of obesity of the mind’

The philosopher William James once said “What holds attention, determines action.” He lived mostly in a world of silence, before the instant distraction of buzzing cell phones and pop-up messages. You can throw your phone into the ocean, or you can search for silent areas such as the business-class lounge in the airport. In short, “Silence has become a luxury good.” Or as Chad Wellman recently wrote in his 79 Theses on Technology. For Disputation,

“We should evaluate our investments of attention at least as carefully and critically as our investments of money.”

If time is money, distraction is the accumulation of pennies.

Albert Einstein was a genius, but he wasn’t the only one – why has his name come to mean something superhuman?

Einstein was a genius, no doubt. He also happened to have crazy hair and a “way with words.” But how much of his celebrity was due to his timing with the proliferation of mass media: newspapaper, radio, and TV? Marie Curie won two Nobel prizes and was equally genius but she was a woman.

“Had he lived in another era, Einstein might have been a decent physicist, but he wouldn’t have been the Einstein we know.”

That’s Hollywood.

How a bee sting saved my life: poison as medicine

Venom saves lives. Ellie Lobel curbed her Lyme’s Disease by accidentally getting stung by a swarm of bees. Now she uses them to sting her on purpose.

“Rare cases like Ellie’s are a reminder of the potent potential of venoms. But turning folk knowledge into pharmaceuticals can be a long and arduous process.”

Meanwhile, “an airbag saved my life.”

The colors of paintings: Blue is the new orange

According to data blogger Martin Bellander who downloaded and studied about 130k thumbnails, the color blue became a popular painting color in the 20th century. He notes one possible reason for the rise in blue.

“Blue has historically been a very expensive color, and the decreasing price and increased supply might explain the increased use.”

Blue was my favorite growing up. As the Observatory podcast explains, the color blue is soothing like a Tiffany’s box, or hospital scrubs.

New Music

Episode 49 | Tunes of the Week

  1. Throwing Snow — Lumen
  2. Mikos Da Gawd — Shaku
  3. Electric Wire Hustle — Golden Ladder
  4. Ruff Draft — Broken Tooth
  5. Braille — The Cat’s Gone Nuts

> Listen

Thought of the Week

Buysness is…

“a boast disguised as a complaint.” – Tim Kreider