Assume everything and nothing

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We suffer from a surfeit of choice. Stuck in indecision, we end up doing nothing at all. Perhaps intertia is the best solution in these dizzying times. Instead of forcing the issue, we let nature take its course.

But more often than not, life doesn’t move unless we do. It begs for action and a subsequent reaction. Even more, in doing, we realize how much more is invisible.

Passivity and dynamism coexist

Surrounded by a morass of distraction machines, it’s no wonder we permit the frustration of ‘what’s next’ chip away at our patience. “Patience is the key to joy,” wrote Rumi.

Staring into nature’s green space may not solve our problem, but it will help us think expansively. We can assume that the best answer lies beyond us. That is until we realize that the answer cramped inside us all along.

The wait never means never if we never get tired of waiting it out right now.

The search continues.

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Blinded by closeness

You can’t make anything in the forest stand still. It is in constant flux, whether that’s in seasons, wildfires, or in the territory marking of a killer bear.

Nature is fickle. It calls for preparedness and a broad scope.

“You can’t see the forest for the trees.”

One must not only have a plan in trekking the forest also but remain on guard. As the saying goes, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Proximity can be blinding. Looking at the individual trees clouds the big picture just as the donut hole takes your eyes off the whole donut.

Linearity isn’t as important as a deliberate wandering, with eyes open to the vastness of seeing.

Let the forest speak.

Beware the algorithms

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Six hundred red years ago, there was no such thing as personal identity. Only when people owned mirrors did they start seeing themselves as individuals.

One hundred years ago, all fighter pilot seats were the same size until there became unnecessary deaths. The US Air Force adapted and customized its seating options.

The mass markets ushered in by industrialization standardized our style. The factory mindset kicked in. But then the internet came along and let people shop in niches. The bell curve flattened, and we felt special.

But the algorithms that run the world today have once again undermined our uniqueness.

The machines determine what we wear, listen to, and read.

We have no choice but to partake in an algorithmic world. We get it: There are too many resumes for one job, a surfeit of photos, new music, and so on.

But picking the mathematical best obviates the outlier and the error. It is the spontaneity that makes us human. Context matters.

If we’re already living in a simulation, let’s not be afraid to be random. We know what we like, the rest is thrown at us by optimizing bots.

It’s time to get weird again.

Turkish musician Görkem Şen plays his Yaybahar at the sea 🎼

Turkish musician Görkem Şen uses a Yaybahar, an acoustic instrument that combines a hodgepodge of drums, coiled spring, and strings that he plays with a wrapped mallet.

Although the device looks antiquated, the sound is classical electronic. It reminds me of William Orbit’s ‘Adagio for Strings.’ It also pairs well with the beauty of the seaside.

Two birds, one stone. And deep space vibes.

‘Everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance’

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“Another flaw in human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance,” said Kurt Vonnegut.

Everybody’s wants to start something, but they rarely want to maintain it.

The problem in growing at no costs is that it blinds integrity. Instead of leading by example, the race to the bottom unearths the highest greed.

“The selfish reason to be ethical is that it attracts the other ethical people in the network.” Naval Ravikant

That’s the lesson of Facebook, the so-called ‘behavior modification empire.‘ The social network cut corners on data collection to make another buck. No Facebook, we will not answer any more questions “to help people get to know us.” Replace the word “people” with the attention merchants.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal was the nudge Facebook needed to become more accountable. Seizing the data of others and building on top of it contorts the machinery of morality. Sometimes the genie of innovation has to contain the miraculous.

A plethora of unconsumed content

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Movies, books, magazines, music, and podcasts. There’s too much content and too little time.

We can try to keep up and multitask or listen to podcasts 2x their speed. But it’s a zero-sum game. The internet never ends. There will always be another Netflix show to catch up on.

Yet we mustn’t fret. We only have so many hours in the day.

An overdose of content. An underdose of time.

Attention competes with sleep.

We spend 18 hours of our day staring at the rectangular glow. How much of that time is consciously doing versus seeking distractive entertainment?

As tech journalist Jonathan Margolis points out, we’re consuming ever more media but not necessarily getting more intelligent. Yet, the sales of physical books are up! Go figure.

‘Water is itself the obstacle to water’

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gif by Living Stills

Leonardo da Vinci obsessed with water more than any of his multidisciplinary interests: architecture, science, painting, and sculpture.

For Leonardo da Vinci, the current represented that perfect chaos that separated air from water. In his Book on Waters, he wrote:

Nothing shares a surface with something and something shares a surface with nothingness. And the surface of something is not part of that thing, whence it follows that the surface of nothingness is part of nothingness, whence it follows that a single surface is the limit between two things that are in contact. Since the surface of water is not part of the water, and hence is not part of the air or of other bodies placed between them, what is it then that divides the air from the water?

Below is one of Leonardo’s sketches on the movement of water from 1508. It demonstrates the paradox of water in, around, and again itself.

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Leonardo, da Vinci, 1508-09 (Paris MS. F)

Writes art historian Irving Lavin, Professor Emeritus in the School of Historical Studies at the Institue of Advanced Study:

…water in percussion: that is, water is itself the obstacle to water, and in this case the contrast is between the resulting currents on the surface, under the surface, and surging upward carrying bubbles of entrapped air. The relationship between air and water, both in combination and as analogous media, was also a subject that greatly preoccupied Leonardo and played a critical role in the development of his thought that concerns me here.

The structure of a stream lies within its anti-structure. There’s the unpredictable and disruptive movement of its flow. Yet freshwater slithers over rocks, persisting unperturbed all the way into the mouth of the river.

The chaos of running water seems to be why it works.

Read Leonardo’s Watery Chaos

Newsletter: ‘Feel the burn’

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Hi Friends, the Marines have a saying: ‘pain is weakness leaving the body.’ Read about embracing pain in David Cain’s piece below. In the spirit of ‘everything is a remix,’ check out the amazing animation an artist recreated from the MET. Think robots are a 21st-century creation? Peep the video about François Junod’s work in making automatons. Check out all the digs below.

Interesting Digs

The Art of Enjoying The BurnThe Marines have a saying: ‘pain is weakness leaving the body.’ Progress hurts. But “that intensity can energize the work once you stop seeing it as undesirable,” writes blogger David Cain. Think long-term and embrace the pain.

Banksy returns to New York. The iconic street artist Banksy is back in New York, the first time since his month-long residency back in 2013. He kicked off his visit with a mural dedicated to the imprisonment of Turkish artist and journalist Zehra Dogan, who’s watercolor painting protests the continued destruction of Kurdish territory by the Turkish military.

The Young and Brash of Tech Grow a Bit Older, and Wiser. Tech entrepreneurs are coming to realize their moral responsibility to the addictive tools that they built. Rather ironically, this piece predates the Cambridge Analytica fiasco.

Thought of the week

“Every great advance in knowledge has involved the rejection of authority.”

— Thomas Henry Huxley


Other Recommendations

Art

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Since starting a year ago, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has made 400,000 of its images free to download and remix. The project immediately empowered the likes of software developer and designer Simone Seagle. She downloaded a 1920s print from abstract Russian artist Vasily Kandinsky called Violett.

Art II

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When mixed media artist Jimmy Swift traveled to India in March 2015, he saw a jagged rock on the beach. He immediately knew what to do with it. “When I first saw this rock it looked like a perfect place for a great white. It’s truly amazing how mother nature can carve out such a perfect shape.”

Video

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As craftsman François Junod points out in the video, “the oldest known automatons date back to the Egyptians.” They gained popularity as entertainment for royalty in the 18th century. WATCH: The Magic of Making Machines


Support the blog…

I spend hours each day digging the web for interesting gems and remixing them here. If you enjoy reading wellsbaum.blog, please consider becoming a patron or making a donation. You can also contribute as little as $1 below with just a couple clicks. Thank you.

Make a one-time donation

Contributing to the blog would help me immensely. For every contributed dollar, I can keep the blog running and continue to provide you interesting links.

$1.00

Newsletter: ‘Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny’

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Image via The Guardian

Hi Friends, we lost the brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking this week but his work and spirit will linger on forever. If you’re stuck in a creative rut, give Seth Godin’s new podcast a listen. For Picasso fans, the Tate Modern has a new exhibit showcasing the artist’s work in his ‘years of wonders.’ Check out all links below.

Interesting Digs

RIP Stephen Hawking: ‘Quiet people have the loudest minds’. Stephen Hawking was a visionary physicist who explored the universe and explained black holes. Born on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death, and dying on Einstein’s birthday, the universe teed Hawkings up to be a genius. But he was also a natural comedian, he took life lightly, someone we could all learn the wrinkles from. “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny,” Hawkings told The New York Times in 2004 interview. He also said that “people who boast about their IQ are losers.”

No such thing (as writer’s block). Writer’s block appears to be the work of the evil. It wants us to quit and hide in shame instead of “dancing with the amygdala” as Seth Godin pleads on the very subject in his new podcast. In reality, no one gets talker’s block just as a plumber never get’s plumber’s block. Stuckness is a work of fiction. Here are my notes.

Study: On Twitter, false news travels faster than true stories. Blame the humans, not the machines. According to research done by data scientists at MIT, it is humans, not bots, which disseminate false news. False news spreads faster than real news because people on Twitter are more likely to retweet novelty.

Thought of the week

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

— Stephen Hawking


Other Recommendations

Art

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Picasso was perhaps best known for his practice of public journaling via painting. “My work is my diary. I have painted my autobiography,” he said. The Tate Modern has a collection of paintings of Picasso’s work through the formative years.

Video

London-based STUDIO AKA animated Icelandic electronica composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s hauntingly beautiful tune ‘A Song For Europa’ from the 2016 album release, Orpheé. WATCH: Jóhann Jóhannsson – A Song For Europa

Tangible

51ba7q+Zk+L._SY355_What people often forget in the age of digitization is that analog — writing your notes down on paper — is more likely to make them stick. Check out the technique of the Scanmarker Air Pen Scanner.


Support the blog…

I spend hours each day digging the web for interesting gems and remixing them here. If you enjoy reading wellsbaum.blog, please consider becoming a patron or making a donation. You can also contribute as little as $1 below with just a couple clicks. Thank you.

Make a one-time donation

Contributing to the blog would help me immensely. For every contributed dollar, I can keep the blog running and continue to provide you interesting links.

$1.00

Fearing a loss of mind

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gif via Fool’s Gold

There are very few moments in the day when we pause. Instead, we latch onto the sugary obsession of tech and its distractions, awaiting the next shock of dopamine.

But we can have tea with ourselves, going through what our worries and wishes are in the quest for ever-fleeting presence.

Man is more versatile than a machine. Robots are one-trick ponies unable to combine disciplines, like doing the dishes or driving to work, all the while contemplating the color blue. Yet, we too become blinded by linear thinking.

We confuse busyness with productivity. We falsely believe that money brings wisdom while in reality, it cultivates hubris. Humans are smart, agile, but fragile thinkers.

The search for meaning starts with a face-to-face conversation with ourselves to bring life back to our senses. Thinking about thinking verifies that the noise in our head is more than just alive.


Newsletter: Strong opinions, loosely held

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Hi Friends, if you’re looking for some motivational fuel I recommend watching the interview with Henry Rollins below. If you missed watching the Francis Bacon video in last week’s newsletter, I’ve highlighted it again here because it’s too good to miss.

Interesting Digs

Henry Rollins: The One Decision that Changed My Life Forever. Success is an accumulation of little efforts that build on top of a grateful perspective, a practice of modesty that keeps you doing what you’re doing. Says Rollins in the video: “I don’t have talent. I have tenacity. I have discipline. I have Focus. I know, without any delusion, where I come from & where I can go back to.”

Why We Still Use “Horsepower”.  In the 1770s, James Watt demonstrated that his steam engine invention was more powerful — he wisely used the marketing metaphor ‘horsepower’ — than the work of multiple horses which were used to drive the malt crushing mill. I love this piece of insight from the author: “Humans now worry about replacement by machines, but horses have already experienced this and for them it may well have been a good thing.”

Notes on Being Very Tall. Nicholas Kulish is 6 foot 8 inches. Towering about the average American height of 5 foot 8, society is simply not built for him. “Why do we bob and weave around the New York City subway in a strange dance?” His observations about tallness are hilarious and beautiful.

Thought of the week

“Be confident, not certain”

Eleanor Roosevelt (i.e. strong opinions, loosely held)


Other Recommendations

Art

From the 16th to 18th century, Leonardo da Vinci’s grotesque sketches from the High Renaissance period in 1493 were his most emulated and celebrated works of art. Wrote art historian Kenneth Clark: ‘For three centuries they were [seen as] the most typical of his works. Today we find them disgusting, or at best wearisome.’

The beauty is in its strangeness. Why did we ever lose our taste in monstrosities?

Video

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Francis Bacon painted ghostly, violent images. Some say he emptied his darkest thoughts on canvass, mostly as a manifestation of his relationship with his sadistic lover, Peter Lacey.

Bacon cultivated a sense of darkness that gave his paintings an “edgy atmosphere…gambling everything on the next brush stroke.” Says Bacon in the video: “We do with our life what we can and then we die. If someone is aware of that, perhaps it comes out in their work.”

> WATCH Francis Bacon: A Brush with Violence

Tangible

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Ember is a smart coffee cup controlled via an app that maintains set temperature for your tea or coffee. It keeps your cup warm if you happen to get distracted or have to run off to a meeting.

While still a bit pricey at $80, it’s on my wish list. You can snag one on Amazon.

 

Henry Rollins: The One Decision that Changed My Life Forever

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Talent is overrated. Hard work, discipline, grit, and consistency are attributes that increase your chances of getting what you want.

Luck is a matter of being specific about your goals and two, putting yourself in a position for good things to happen. It is the accumulation of small and steady risks that make the biggest difference and change your life.

For Henry Rollins, that meant taking a bus from DC up to New York to see his favorite band, only to go on stage and sing with them. To his surprise, they called him back later for an audition and became the band’s lead singer. In other words, he caught his lucky break and escaped a life of minimum wage jobs.

Some people get lucky by default. Their network leads them into opportunities because of the sheer dazzle of their last name. For others, hitting the jackpot it is the result of striving to achieve a very specific effort and finding those luck circles that help you make it happen.

Luck draws on the law of magnetism

Luck may be a random phenomenon but it works like a magnet, gravitating toward those hungry enough to take chances.

Success is an accumulation of little efforts that build on top of a grateful perspective, a practice of modesty that keeps you doing what you’re doing. Says Rollins:

“I don’t have talent. I have tenacity. I have discipline. I have Focus. I know, without any delusion, where I come from & where I can go back to.”

 

Newsletter: ‘If you can wait and not be tired by waiting’

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I was reminded this week to ‘keep the patience’ by rereading Rudyard Kipling’s poem entitled “If”. Good things take time.

In the meantime, below are some articles and some other digs I stumbled upon this week that I think you’ll find interesting.

Interesting Digs

Francis Bacon: A Brush with Violence. Francis Bacon was a mystery man who tugged at the most morose moments in his life, leaving the characters in his paintings look as if they are literally gasping for air.

Children struggle to hold pencils due to too much tech, doctors say. According to doctors, you can blame tech for children’s inability to hold pencils. Apparently all that screen time is doing nothing to strengthen their thumb, index, and middle fingers which work together to form one’s basic writing technique.

Robin Hanson On Signaling And Self-Deception. Introverts are egg people, not onion people. “I’ve sometimes been tempted to classify people as egg people and onion people. Onion people have layer after layer after layer. You peel it back, and there’s still more layers. You don’t really know what’s underneath. Whereas egg people, there’s a shell, and you get through it, and you see what’s on the inside.”

Thought of the week

“I go in and start working, I’m not sure where I’m going — if I knew where I was going, I wouldn’t do it.”

Frank Gehry


Other Recommendations

Artwork

I’m blown away by the artwork from illustrator Mochi on her Tumblr page. The gif below is called Pouring rain with the sun setting is blissful.

http://mochipanko.tumblr.com/post/124096842688/ah-pouring-rain-with-the-sun-setting-is-blissful

 

Video

What would the world look like if everyone was guaranteed a basic income? For musician Brian Eno, that society would put a lot more emphasis on time well spent.

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“Try not to get a job. Try to leave yourself in a position where you do the things you want to do with your time and where you take maximum advantage of wherever your possibilities are.”

> WATCH

Books

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Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin: “A brilliant author or businesswoman or senator or software engineer is brilliant only in tiny bursts. The rest of the time, they’re doing work that most any trained person could do.

It might take a lot of tinkering or low-level work or domain knowledge for that brilliance to be evoked, but from the outside, it appears that the art is created in a moment, not in tiny increments.”

Thanks for reading. If you found any of the above useful or interesting, I’d appreciate it if you shared this post on social or emailed it to friends. You can also show your love by making a small contribution below or one of choice on the donations page right here.


Support wellsbaum.blog

Dig the blog? Make a small contribution. For every contributed dollar, I can keep the blog running and continue to provide you interesting links.

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‘To be or not to be. That’s not really a question’

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Photo by Stefano Pollio

“To be or not to be. That’s not really a question,” quipped film director Jean-Luc Godard back to Shakespeare’s most famous line.

To be is rather a false start. We think that success breeds confidence, but it’s actually the little lessons along the way that build up our future.

Struggle makes us human

Similarly, it is our impairments that deem to weaken us that actually but end up making us stronger. As we overcompensate for our flaws, we excel in creating our own unique survival methods that are almost impossible to replicate.

Humans should march slowly, unattached to the cult of action, tolerant to their defects.

Said Malcolm Gladwell: “A lot of what is beautiful and powerful in the world arises out of adversity. We benefit from those kind of things,” but “we wouldn’t wish them on each other.”

We are all underdogs in something, a compromise that gets us out of bed in the morning and back to work.

The simple technique that boosts your short and long-term memory

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Want to remember more of what you read? Give your brain a 10-15 minute rest. No phones, no distractions, just pure boredom, a quiet room and dimmed lights.

Why do we need to reduce interference?

It takes longer for new information to encode and simply consuming more or squandering time on social media will make it even hard to remember.

When we let the mind wander, the brain works backward and connects the dots, cementing those memories that were previously unlinked.

So stop chasing extra stimulation and let your brain rest in its own presence. Your memory will thank you for it.

Read An effortless way to improve your memory