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Current Topic: Arts

Elizabeth Gilbert on genius
Topic: Arts 9:28 pm EST, Feb 10, 2009

Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses -- and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius. It's a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

I really enjoyed this talk.

From 2005, Simon Singh:

Perhaps humility, more than anything, is the mark of true genius.

From last May, see Geniuses and the Men Hidden Inside Them.

From last July, Stephen Burt on Philip K. Dick:

Where other SF writers ask whether made-up entities (aliens, androids, emoting computers etc) deserve the respect we give real human beings, Dick more often asks whether we ought to view ourselves as fakes or machines.

From last December, Malcom Gladwell:

We should be lowering our standards, because there is no point in raising standards if standards don’t track with what we care about.

Also, here's Gladwell from October:

Genius, in the popular conception, is inextricably tied up with precocity—doing something truly creative, we’re inclined to think, requires the freshness and exuberance and energy of youth.

Elizabeth Gilbert on genius

Topic: Arts 10:01 pm EST, Feb  8, 2009

Rewilding: the process of creating a lifestyle that is independent of the domestication of civilization.

From the archive, Freeman Dyson:

When children start to play with real genes, evolution as we know it will change forever.


Although the early West was not completely anarchistic, we believe that government as a legitimate agency of coercion was absent for a long enough period to provide insights into the operation and viability of property rights in the absence of a formal state.


I was in Africa last year and saw a lot of animals in the wild that I'd only seen in zoos before. It was remarkable how different they seemed. Particularly lions. Lions in the wild seem about ten times more alive. They're like different animals.

Jeremy Rifkin:

Scientists tell us that within the lifetime of today's children, the wild will disappear from the face of the earth.

Have you seen "Revolutionary Road"?

Hopeless emptiness. Now you've said it. Plenty of people are onto the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness.


Nothing is original
Topic: Arts 11:21 pm EST, Jan 22, 2009

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that
resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.
Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings,
photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations,
architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds,
bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things
to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do
this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.
Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.
And don't bother concealing your thievery -- celebrate
it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember
what Jean-Luc Godard said: "It's not where you take
things from -- it's where you take them to."

-- Jim Jarmusch

I just finished watching Night on Earth:

Five cities. Five taxicabs. A multitude of strangers in the night.

Jim Jarmusch assembled an extraordinary international cast of actors (including Gena Rowlands, Winona Ryder, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Beatrice Dalle, and Roberto Benigni) for this hilarious quintet of tales of urban displacement and existential angst, spanning time zones, continents, and languages.

Jarmusch’s lovingly askew view of humanity from the passenger seat makes for one of his most charming and beloved films.

From the archive, Jonathan Lethem:

Any text is woven entirely with citations, references, echoes, cultural languages, which cut across it through and through in a vast stereophony. The citations that go to make up a text are anonymous, untraceable, and yet already read; they are quotations without inverted commas. The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are secondhand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral caliber and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote. Neurological study has lately shown that memory, imagination, and consciousness itself is stitched, quilted, pastiched. If we cut-and-paste our selves, might we not forgive it of our artworks?

Alfred North Whitehead:

It is more important that a proposition be interesting than that it be true.

From 2006:

What makes a post "interesting" is when it lies at the intersection of many otherwise "different" vectors.

From last year, David Lynch:

Ideas are like fish. Originality is just the ideas you caught.

Nothing is original

Sing Along With the Frankly Somber Prostitutes
Topic: Arts 7:37 am EST, Nov  4, 2008

"Quite frankly," she added, "everything from pizza to prostitutes."

"I moved mine, too," he said, as if it were a somber rite of passage we all must face one day.

Together, they got all the squeals and singalongs they needed.

On the Ridiculousness of Wrathful Reaction to Swell Ideas
Topic: Arts 6:52 am EDT, Oct 20, 2008

My heart swells in my chest and while I laugh,
I feel fear, smell a faint stench of insanity.

A good idea that doesn't happen is no idea at all.
-- Louis Kahn

I think part of the aim was to unsettle people's ideas, whether his own or other people's. To move people out of an unquestioning space and to some less settled space in which the authority of rules and structures was broken up a bit.

Being in the water alone, surfing, sharpens a particular kind of concentration, an ability to agree with the ocean, to react with a force that is larger than you are.

Overhead, the sun is a wrathful god. It is made to ravage a dying land.

The boy stands in a dry gulch. He tilts his hat to the sting of the wind.

These men are patriots, says The Coach.

I reckon.

Were it not for the fact that we're blind this mix-up would never have happened, You're right, our problem is that we're blind.

Other people’s culture wars always look ridiculous. That’s partly because we frame cultural controversies as battles between the old and the new, and, given that the old is someone else’s status quo and we have no stake in it, we naturally favor the new.

It has been a historic few days. We have been reminded of a simpler time.

Mourners include those who are looking for answers to the pressing questions being asked in our country today.

They seem to be asking, What can we do about our country now?

Arguing, in the sense of attempting to convince others, seems to have gone out of fashion with everyone.

Indeed, charisma, intelligence, and ambition, tempered by a self-deprecating wit, are the particular hallmarks not so much of a great black politician as of any great one.

Rock and Rose!
Topic: Arts 6:57 pm EDT, Oct  6, 2008

For four months Rhapsody will be the exclusive online seller of Kid Rock's music.

It's hard to see what this adds, beyond lower production costs and a slightly cheesy, threadbare feel.

He's like Charlie Rose that way.

Mysterious, mysterious, mysterious -- but not in the least interesting.

Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
Topic: Arts 7:55 am EDT, Sep 16, 2008

Neal Stephenson's latest is now available.

Anathem is a magnificent creation: a work of great scope, intelligence, and imagination that ushers readers into a recognizable—yet strangely inverted—world.

This time, Stephenson has given himself the broadest stage yet: a world of his own creation, including a new language. Though he's been consistently ambitious in his work, this latest effort marks a high point in his risk-taking, daring to blend the elements of a barn-burner space opera with heavy dollops of philosophical dialog. It's got elements of Dune, The Name of the Rose, and Michael Frayn's quantum-physics talkathon, Copenhagen. Befitting a novel written by a founding member of the History Book Club, its leitmotif is time—and its message couldn't be more timely.

See also:

For a while I was trying to impose a policy of having a harpoon-throwing character in every single one of my books. But it's difficult to maintain that kind of restraint.


"I had the idea that there would be people who voluntarily stay inside those walls," said Stephenson, a fit 48-year-old who looks like he should carry a broadsword, "as a way of getting away from the distractions of everyday life, of doing something in a serious way that took a long time. And one of their jobs would be to care for the clock."

Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

The perfect alchemy of print and digital
Topic: Arts 7:30 am EDT, Aug  6, 2008

Paulo Coelho certainly has nothing against selling books. He has sold an astounding 100m copies of his novels. But he also believes in giving them away. He is a pirate.

For Coelho, digital is about relationships. The internet always is - and he is revelling in the new connections it gives him with his readers. He loves to meet them face-to-face. He mentioned on his blog that he'd like to invite a few readers to a party in a remote town in Spain and he was shocked that they were willing to fly in from as far away as Japan. Now he regularly invites readers to his parties.

From the archive:

Our reporter brought a 3 liter jug of "White Ace" cider back to the states, which is 7% alcohol per volume and only about $3.50 US for the whole 3 liter jug. When the test subject drank the whole bottle of "White Ace," in Las Vegas, the effects were severe. He got kicked out of 4 Queens casino for washing his hands in a urinal, then fell asleep for 3 hours and woke up soaked in his own urine. He woke up and got into a 6 year old's pirate costume, ran around slapping gamblers in the gut, got kicked out of The Imperial Palace, and became so obnoxious that his friends put him on a plane and sent him home early.

If scientists have been able to create glowing green hair by merging jellyfish DNA with that of the mice, would it be possible for a "Real Genius" such as nanochick to create Warez, the Glowing Pumpkin?

The perfect alchemy of print and digital

Eureka Carpark Melbourne
Topic: Arts 7:30 am EDT, Aug  6, 2008

Axel Peemoeller:

In Melbourne I developed a way-finding-system for the Eureka Tower Carpark. The distored letters on the wall can be read perfectly when standing at the right position. This project won several international design awards.

From the archive:

Julian Beever is an English artist who is famous for his art on the pavements of England, France, Germany, USA, Australia and Belgium. Beever's images are drawn in such a way which gives them three dimensionality when viewing from the correct angle.

These unbelievable photos are chalk drawings done by Julian Beever and Kurt Wenner. Both Julian and Kurt have different styles to create an amazing 3D illusion.

Scroll down slowly and stop at each new frame. Julian Beever is an English artist who’s famous for his art on the pavement of England, France, Germany, USA, Australia and Belgium.

Most of his artwork it is impossible to tell whats real from what’s an illusion. Very cool stuff.

Eureka Carpark Melbourne

Me, Myself and I
Topic: Arts 7:30 am EDT, Aug  6, 2008

Why do we capitalize the word “I”?

Maybe it's symbolic ...

The word “capitalize” comes from “capital,” meaning “head,” and is associated with importance, material wealth, assets and advantages. We have capital cities and capital ideas. We give capital punishment and accrue political, social and financial capital. And then there is capitalism, which is linked to private ownership, markets and investments. These words shore up the towering single letter that signifies us as discrete beings and connote confidence, dominance and the ambition to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

Or not ...

“Graphically, single letters are a problem,” says Charles Bigelow, a type historian and a designer of the Lucida and Wingdings font families. “They look like they broke off from a word or got lost or had some other accident.” When “I” shrunk to a single letter, Bigelow explains, “one little letter had to represent an important word, but it was too wimpy, graphically speaking, to carry the semantic burden, so the scribes made it bigger, which means taller, which means equivalent to a capital.”

Me, Myself and I

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