The Weekend Digest #3

1. Anaïs Nin on Inner Conflict, the Connectedness of All Things, and What Maturity Really Means

“She writes: ‘When we are in conflict we tend to make such sharp oppositions between ideas and attitudes and get caught and entangled in what seems to be a hopeless choice, but when the neurotic ambivalence is resolved one tends to move beyond sharp differences, sharply defined boundaries and begins to see the interaction between everything, the relation between everything.'”

By Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

2. Quit Your Job

“But overall, Siu said, adults who switch jobs multiple times are more likely to find a position in their prime-work years where they earn a higher wage and have a lower chance of quitting.”

By Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

3. Living on Internet Time

“What used to be released over three months or a year can now be consumed at any rate the viewer chooses, even as the time of each episode remains the standard hour or half an hour, and the narrative pacing hasn’t changed. Watch more than three at a time and one can feel peculiarly numb, nerves deadened by too much experience delivered too quickly.”

By Stacey D’Erasmo, The New Yorker

4. The Amazons of the dark net

“Several factors make life hard for those looking to crack down on the dark net, including its technical complexity, the physical separation of buyers and sellers, and their mobility (vendors typically post on more than one market, allowing them to keep selling if a site goes offline). Tellingly, the only market forcibly closed since Silk Road was Utopia, which was shut by Dutch authorities soon after it opened in February. Some law enforcers want to target Tor, but even if that were technically possible it would cause “collateral damage”, points out Nicolas Christin of Carnegie Mellon University, because the software has worthy uses, such as to protect whistleblowers.”

The Economist

‘Pretend you’re Count Dracula.’

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

- Kurt Vonnegut

“Books are the Great Equalizer”

 

“My first real job was in Washington DC and I went to New York. I was prepared for those because they’ve been reading my whole life about people who lived in cities, you know, from children’s books to fairy tales to serious works if fiction and nonfiction when I got older.

Books are the great equalizer, they allow those who can’t have those experiences in real life to have a version of them which is not bad…it can be pretty powerful.”

Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience

Among intellectuals, and especially among activists, I believe there’s no one who has ever influenced as many people as Henry David Thoreau.

He wrote about a variety of subjects, most notouriously abolitionism, natural history and philosophy. His Walden writings are among some of the earlier transcendentalist manifestos, along with Ralph Waldo Emerson”s writings. His social experiments, independence and philosophies on life have led, directly or indirectly, to many social changes.

In Civil Disobedience Thoreau wrote about a new kind of resistance towards government, or social, injustices most commonly known as nonviolent resistance.

Among some of Thoreau’s advice there is the importance of first being a just man and a conscientious one too:

I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have the right to assume, is to do at any time what I think is right. It is truly enough said, that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.

On the men who where “in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war” Thoreau wrote:

They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect. They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil that tey may no longer have it to regret.

Lastly, I leave you with Thoreau’s question to how a just man must react to an unjust law:

Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?

The rest of this essay is, as it is, a true manual on how to become a better individual and member of society.

Free copy of the book in several formats by the Gutenberg Project. A little bit of information for the curious type.

The Weekend Digest #2

1. Why George Carlin Deserves His Own Street

“George Carlin’s legacy is that of a social critic, a philosopher and a comedian. He thought outside the box and through humor, shaped public discourse and opinion. He lectured but never judged his audience. He poked holes in what we held sacred and questioned what we believed.”

By Kevin Bartini, The Daily Beast

2. Doctors transplanted ‘dead hearts’ into three patients, and it worked

“‘We then take the heart out, connect it to the machine, warm it up, and when we warm it up, the heart starts to beat.” Once the recipient was ready, the doctors disconnected the warm heart from the machine, and placed it in the patient.'”

By Arielle Duhaime-Ross, The Verge

3. Literary Lives

By Joshua Rothman & Erin Overbey, New Yorker

4. Islamic State can be beaten

“You have to hand it to Islamic State. It’s not only good at capturing towns and cities, cutting off the heads of its enemies on camera, selling off 14-year-old girls into sexual slavery, carrying out mass executions with the efficiency and enthusiasm of the Reich’s SS Panzer Division and cutting videos to music; it has also managed to persuade us that it can’t be beaten.”

By John Simpson, New Statesman

 5. Young Stanley Kubrick’s Noirish Pictures of Chicago, 1949

Open Culture

6. Let the Body Rest, for the Sake of the Brain

“Of course, different people require different amounts of sleep and although there’s no universal rule for how long we should all be sleeping, it’s becoming increasingly clear that working late and waking early can cause serious problems. It’s not just repeated sleep deprivation that does people in, either. Just one restless night can seriously affect us in the morning.”

By Cody C. Delistraty, The Atlantic

7. The Technical Constraints That Made Abbey Road So Good

“It was this combination of playfulness, openness to risk-taking, and deep professionalism which enabled Abbey Road’s technicians to respond to seemingly off-the-wall requests from The Beatles. Engineers began to record amps inside cupboards to get unique sounds. The studio’s tape recorders were rewired to automatically double-track performances. The tapes themselves were sped-up, slowed-down, sliced, and looped—to great effect.”

By Justin Lancy, The Atlantic

8. You Can Have an Easy Life or an Awesome One. Choose Wisely.

“(…) Everything you desire in life has a price and you have to be willing to accept that price. If you desire to do great work, it will cost you. Likewise, security and comfort will cost you. If you want a luxury apartment with a wrap-around sectional couch in leather with stainless steel legs, it will cost you.”

By James Victore, 99u

Resident Advisor’s “Between The Beats”

Resident Advisor – an independent electronic music online magazine – released a presentational series of videos about upcoming DJ’s between March and September of last year.

Even though the series is small – only 3 short videos – it presents amazing DJ’s who are getting bigger and better as time passes:

  • Nina Kravitz
  • Motor City Drum Ensemble
  • The Martinez Brothers

I’ve watched all three and have become a fan of Nina Kravitz and Motor City Drum Ensemble – Martinez Brothers’s style doesn’t suit me particularly. The videos show the artists from different perspectives while the producer follows them through their day-to-day activities – be it playing at a gig or simply cooking some dinner.

From the three, my favourite is, without a doubt, the one about Motor City Drum Ensemble:

I think it brings great insights into the pressures and sacrifices musicians, or most artists for that matter, have to go through to make it in their relevant fields – even though it sometimes looks as if they are completely free and under control of their lives…

Danilo Plessow puts it best:

“I’d say that when I was 18 or 19 years old, that I was also touring intensely, and that was the first time that I experienced a lot of flying and airports and hangovers but when I was young I was really going for it and I loved it.

I mean, I worked my whole life to get to the point that I was able to tour that much and ,you know…make a living with music and spread my music and make people happy.

At one point there was something happening to me that I couldn’t really put a finger on. For somebody that hears anxiety it sounds a bit like “Ok, you’re a little anxious, what’s the big deal?”…but it came to a level where I couldn’t sleep anymore, you know? That’s when I figured it was too much. I can’t perform, I can’t, basically, live like this…”

Other artists, like Nina Kraviz, share similar feelings:

“I’m traveling alone all the time. I like it – I like being alone a few times.

But the problem is that sometimes I have beautiful places that I arrive and I see landscapes that are just breath-taking, I eat this food, I’m surrounded by nice people and the first thought that pops out in my mind is “Ohh I really would like somebody to be here with me. Just to share this, just to show how beautiful is that.

I just realize that all this magical moments, they are all served for me to not enjoy them alone. This is a bit corrosive at times.”

Most of all, “Between the Beats” shows a whole different face to musicians, and specially, touring artists. A face that presents itself with a lot of flights, hotel rooms and, ultimately, loneliness…

Oliver Sacks on Memory as the Intercourse of Many Minds

Oliver Sacks is, probably after Freud, the most famous scientist on the fields of neurology, psychology and psychiatry – in part, not due to his theories, but because he has written so many best-selling books.

In an article written for The New York Review of Books, Sacks analyses how memories are created, or better, induced, into one’s brain even by the simple action of speaking – just by having a dialogue.

He starts by analysing a memory he had – it turned out not to be true:

I was staggered by Michael’s words. How could he dispute a memory I would not hesitate to swear on in a court of law, and had never doubted as real? “What do you mean?” I objected. “I can see the bomb in my mind’s eye now, Pa with his pump, and Marcus and David with their buckets of water. How could I see it so clearly if I wasn’t there?”

He quickly realizes that the experience he thought was his own, unique, experience might have been “transferred” from his older brother description of the actual incident:

My “false” bomb experience was closely akin to the true one, and it could easily have been my own experience too. It was plausible that I might have been there; had it not been so, perhaps the description of it in my brother’s letter would not have affected me so. All of us “transfer” experiences to some extent, and at times we are not sure whether an experience was something we were told or read about, even dreamed about, or something that actually happened to us.

In the midst of reflection about unconscious plagiarism, and retentive memory, Sacks gives insight on the inability of the brain to distinguish the difference between a “real” memory and a “false” one:

There is, it seems, no mechanism in the mind or the brain for ensuring the truth, or at least the veridical character, of our recollections. We have no direct access to historical truth, and what we feel or assert to be true (as Helen Keller was in a very good position to note) depends as much on our imagination as our senses. There is no way by which the events of the world can be directly transmitted or recorded in our brains; they are experienced and constructed in a highly subjective way, which is different in every individual to begin with, and differently reinterpreted or reexperienced whenever they are recollected.

He concludes by saying that the source of a memory is, sometimes, almost irrelevant:

Indifference to source allows us to assimilate what we read, what we are told, what others say and think and write and paint, as intensely and richly as if they were primary experiences. It allows us to see and hear with other eyes and ears, to enter into other minds, to assimilate the art and science and religion of the whole culture, to enter into and contribute to the common mind, the general commonwealth of knowledge. This sort of sharing and participation, this communion, would not be possible if all our knowledge, our memories, were tagged and identified, seen as private, exclusively ours. Memory is dialogic and arises not only from direct experience but from the intercourse of many minds.

Even at the rate today’s science is evolving, neurology is still, largely, an unknown field – Sacks sheds some light on the mystery.

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)