Maarten Baas destroys things. He has a whole series called smoke in which he burns iconic furniture, rendering the pieces to charcoal silhouettes of their former selves.
Maarten Baas reimagines things. He has a whole series called clay in which he hand-molds industrial objects in brightly colored polymer, rendering them cartoon versions of themselves.
Charing or hand-forming classic objects helps us question the assumptions that we make about them. Questioning assumptions is a healthy practice. So while Baas may seem destructive and wasteful, he is really being productive in inspiring new ways of thinking about old things.
Cory Henry is a Brooklyn born musical prodigy with breadth and depth. He plays keys, all keys: Hammond organ, synth, clavier, piano. He plays a range of styles: jazz fusion, gospel, R&B, pop. And he gathers fantastic musicians to collaborate with.
Put some headphones on and check out this video of 4-year-old Henry playing the organ at church. About 45 seconds in you see him trying to reach the foot pedals which is adorable. But pay special attention to his left hand. Magical.
TAKE IT FURTHER
Go on a listening binge. You can start here, but anywhere is good
If you want to read more about Henry, check out this 2018 interview with Forbes
and for some music history, check out this live video of Weather Report, 1976
I remember the exact moment when I realized that philosophers aren’t in the business of creating solutions. I was at a sustainability ethics symposium, a gathering of philosopher speakers addressing an audience of designers and engineers.
There was a tension in the room. While the speakers articulated problems really well, the designers and engineers in the room wanted to hear solutions. This was seen in the questions that they asked during Q&A. Questions like, “You say that X is a problem. So what do we do about it?” To which the speakers smiled, shook their heads, and replied, “That’s not our job.”
Whose job is it to address the problems that philosophers describe? If it is the job of designers and engineers, are they equipped to do it? The extent of the ethics training they receive in school happens in a single required ethics elective outside of their academic department. The work they do in that course is reading and writing, not their native language of designing and implementing. They rarely have an opportunity to address the problems they read and write about through a project. And even if they do, who is qualified to mentor them?
Whose job is it to address the problems that philosophers articulate? Policymakers? Surely the ones who have been to law school have more ethics training than engineers and designers. But do they understand how to create solutions that the communities they serve will adopt? And even if they understood how to create solutions that stick, do they have the freedom to implement such solutions?
Whose job is it to address the problems that philosophers articulate?
I’ve recently recommitted to the habit of listening to one or two chapters of Rick Hansen’s Hardwiring Happiness each morning. In the (audio)book Hansen offers 21 focal points for mindfulness practice. As the title suggests, he argues that if you practice these meditations, you can carve new pathways in your brain so that when you are experiencing a challenging emotion, like fear, for example, your brain will make a connection to a positive emotion that will ease that fear. This theory that you can rewire your brain is called neuroplasticity. While I’m not a 100% believer, I do find this book very helpful.
The focal points are organized into three categories that target three different parts of our brain:
- SAFETY – Brainstem, focused on avoiding harm (reptilian)
- SATISFACTION – Subcortex, focused on approaching rewards (mammalian)
- CONNECTION – Neocortex, focused on attaching to “us” (primate/human)
All 21 focal points listed out below:
- SEEING THREATS & RESOURCES CLEARLY
- FEELING ALRIGHT RIGHT NOW
- GRATITUDE & GLADNESS
- POSITIVE EMOTION
- ACCOMPLISHMENT & AGENCY
- FEELING THE FULLNESS OF THIS MOMENT
- FEELING CARED ABOUT
- FEELING VALUED
- COMPASSION & KINDNESS
- SELF COMPASSION
- FEELING LIKE A GOOD PERSON
- COMPASSIONATE ASSERTIVENESS
When a project has a lot of moving parts, sitting your butt down and making a spreadsheet can really help. Without one, it’s just too hard to keep track of WHAT needs to be done WHEN and by WHOM.
Your spreadsheet doesn’t have to be digital. If using a paper ledger or graph paper is a better fit for you, then go for it. Just be sure to use a pencil and not a pen because tasks evolve over the life of a project.
TAKE IT FURTHER
Project Management for Artists
Simone Giertz is known for her intentionally shitty robots and her straight man schtick in her demo videos. But this project here, the Every Day Calendar, is a more serious piece. The Everyday Calendar is a touch-sensitive, light up display that you can use to help keep track of a habit that you want to form. Giertz used it for meditation practice.
Check out Giertz’s kickstarter campaign here
I’m reading a beautiful new comic book by New Yorker cartoonist Liana Finck. The book is about her parents–her artistic yet domestic mother, her odd yet professional father–and it’s about the author’s own coming of age. If you’re a reader of comics, then you probably appreciate how different writers play with time and timing. Finck is a master. Her stories are beautifully paced, toggling back and forth between reality and abstraction.
TAKE IT FURTHER
Interview on WNYC, Sep 2018
Finck’s column on Medium
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
I understand why it’s called that. Security is the feature that enables distributed ledger technology. But the word “crypto” is a description of the technology and says nothing about the user experience or its impact on the economy and society. The word “blockchain” is a description of the tech, too. Both words are so defensive. We need a name for crypto that is more about what the tech allows us to do that we couldn’t do before and less about how the tech works. What might that name be?
THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.
I adore this excerpt from Ira Glass’s longer piece called “On Storytelling.” Glass points to something that he wishes he had known when starting out writing for radio: That there a gap. There is a gap between your good taste and the quality of the work that you make as a beginner. Your taste is good enough to tell you that what you are making isn’t really that good. At this point, a lot of people just quit. But Glass urges us to push through. And he says that the only way to close that gap between your good taste and the beginner work that you are making is to make a lot of work.
I’m participating in an online course hosted by MIT’s Learning Creative Learning group. Our first assignment is a lovely one: Share an object from your childhood and reflect on how it influenced you. For inspiration, we were given Seymour Papert’s short essay Gears of my Childhood.
Lucky for me, our mother filled our home with beautiful objects. I’m pretty sure this environment is what led me to study product design in graduate school. From an early age, I remember noticing the details on the objects. And as an adult, I have such an appreciation for combinations of materials in an object (like the leather+wood+brass on my baby carriage) and how they work together to deliver a functional whole.
Check out some objects from my childhood here