We’re Going to Forget How to Live

The danger is that, as entertainment’s denials of the truth get even more effective and pervasive and seductive, we will eventually forget what they’re denials of. This is scary. Because it seems transparent to me that, if we forget how to die, we’re going to forget how to live.

- David Foster Wallace, “Both Flesh and Not

Leaving on $1 a Day

TIME magazine published a small article, written by Justin Worland, on their blog, promoting  “Living on a Dollar a Day” in which they showed 13 pictures of human beings around the world who live with $1 – sometimes less – a day.

This supports the research in the fields of social and economic disparity that conclude the world is a little bit more unfair and unequal – every day that passes.

In a world that is seamlessly socially connected – twenty-four hours a day – the fact that, economically, there exists such an inequality is just shocking. The fact that so much protest and revolution are arising nowadays is just an example that people are finally realizing the depth of the situation in which we are now and that the situation is here to stay.

In an article for The New York Times on the topic, mostly reviewing Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Eduardo Porter reaches a similar conclusion:

Mr. Piketty doubts that the enormous remuneration of top executives and financiers in the United States — enhanced by the decline of top income tax rates since the 1980s — really reflects their contributions. What’s more, he points out, inherited inequality has been lower in the United States mainly because its population has grown so fast — from three million at the time of independence to 300 million today — driving a vast economic expansion.

But this population boom will not repeat itself. The share of national income absorbed by corporate profits, a major component of capital’s share, is already rising sharply.

If anything, this means future inequality in the United States will be driven by two forces. A growing share of national income will go to the owners of capital. Of the remaining labor income, a growing share will also go to the top executives and highly compensated stars at the pinnacle of the earnings scale.

What this basically means is that most of today’s capital currents, in the future, are going to be directed to the same people as they are now. The middle-class is going to have difficulty breaking that chain which in turn is going to obliterate it as we know it today…which in turn will create an even larger lower-class and increasing disparity.

Research about the topic is widely available and there’s even a documentary about it but it doesn’t look like anything is changing – or maybe I just don’t see it.

(Image: Living on a Dollar a Day, Thomas A. Nazario)

“Google it!”

When you introduce a concept, or a speaker, or an opportunity, skip the reading of facts. Instead, make a passionate pitch that drives inquiry. In the audience, in your employees, in your customers…

The only reason people don’t look it up is that they don’t care, not that they’re unable. So, your job is to get them to care enough.

(via Seth Godin)

In a Sentimental Mood

Lasting music is, in itself, iconic.

Every day, hundreds – if not thousands – of songs are written, composed or covered, and I’d say that most of them, apart from a very small and distinct group, are promptly, or at least quickly, forgotten. There’s so much information – music, in this instance – passing around that it is very difficult to be able to process it all or even spare the time needed to appreciate the beauty in some of it.

That’s why whenever I discover, or re-discover, a song that has been around for ages and it still makes sense, I get all warm and fuzzy…

Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” is one of those songs, written circa 1935, that is as important today, specially to the jazz genre, as it was, probably, when it was written. It’s the perfect song for late nights and relaxing times.

As all music genres, jazz is evolving but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take some time to appreciate and remember some of its most astonishing compositions.

Just for future reference, another beautiful composition is Duke Ellington’s Melancholia“.

‘Cheap booze is a false economy…’

I’ve been a fan of Hitchens ever since I have read “God is not Great” – his book about the poison organized religion brings to the world and injects into humanity, ruining our core values and morals.

That said, when his autobiography “Hitch-22″ was published I readily bought it in the hope of learning what I could about a man as genius and controversial as him and of absorbing some of its brilliance.

In one of the chapters in which Hitchens talks a little more  intimately about his addictions he offers some advice about the perils and benefits of all kinds of drugs:

Of course, watching the clock for the start-time is probably a bad sign, but here are some simple pieces of advice for the young. Don’t drink on an empty stomach: the main point of the refreshment is the enhancement of food. Don’t drink if you have the blues: it’s a junk cure. Drink when you are in a good mood. Cheap booze is a false economy. It’s not true that you shouldn’t drink alone: these can be the happiest glasses you ever drain. Hangovers are another bad sign, and you should not expect to be believed if you take refuge in saying you can’t properly remember last night. (If you really don’t remember, that’s an even worse sign.) Avoid all narcotics: these make you more boring rather than less and are not designed – as are the grape and the grain – to enliven company. Be careful about up-grading too far to single malt Scotch: when you are voyaging in rough countries it won’t be easily available. Never even think about driving a car if you have taken a drop. It’s much worse to see a woman drunk than a man: I don’t know quite why this is true but it just is. Don’t ever be responsible for it.

It may seem strange, or even ironic, for a man known as being a heavy drinker and chain smoker, among other things, to offer advice on drugs but I do think he has an extremely valid point here…and he is experienced.

Mason Currey wrote an informative book about the daily routines of artists – “Daily Rituals” – with several examples and quotes from artists about the use alcohol, coffee and amphetamines as a creativity enhancement drug.

The Weekend Digest #1

1. How Bad Are the Colleges?

“Deresiewicz is clearly right to suggest that students should be encouraged to look around (experiment with different selves and different fields of knowledge) before deciding on a profession, and view college as an escape from the job market as much as a preparation for it. But he doesn’t leave it at that. Adopting a messianic tone, he urges students to rebel against their well-meaning parents (who may be understandably alarmed by a scary jobs outlook), just as they allegedly did during the 1960s, since “a child who never rebels remains a child forever.” “What do you owe your parents?” he asks. “Nothing.””

By Christopher Benfey, The New York Review of Books

2. Lab-made blood cells hunt cancer, leading to remissions

“Nineteen patients in the study remain in remission 2 to 24 months later, and 15 of them didn’t need any additional treatment. Seven patients relapsed between 6 months and 9 months after their infusion; those included three people whose cancers spread beyond the blood cells the new treatment targets. Five patients left the study for alternative therapy.”

By Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge