“Unless you are extraordinarily self-aware, how could it not make you feel worse to spend part of your time pretending to be happier than you are, and the other part of your time seeing how much happier others seem to be than you?”—Love People, Not Pleasure - NYTimes.com
“EH!? NO! NO! NO! It is not much to compose 12 or 13 cantatas in one year because if you think about it Bach, for example, used to compose one cantata a week. He had to compose the music in time for it to be performed in church on Sunday so if you just consider Bach, you will see that I’m practically unemployed!”—Ennio Morricone (via austinkleon)
“Portland is the island on Lost. You get there, magical things happen, and you are in disbelief. You make a go of living there. Things go exceedingly well for a while, but eventually you realize time is wonky, and you must escape. You work diligently to reconnect with the rest of the world. Eventually you leave the island and get back to where you were. Then, the everydayness of your own life sinks in, and you say to yourself, “We need to go back to the island!””—Frank Chimero, For Chloe
“A pair of cowboy boots stood in the hall outside the door. Keeping my feet where they were, I was just able to contort enough to reach them. I pulled them on, then line danced to the kitchen for the dustpan and broom.”—
This is the kind of clever, nuanced wordplay that reminds me that I have so much to learn as a writer. It takes a lot of practice and restraint to make the cowboy boots reference nonchalantly, only to bring it home with the line dancing a few sentences later, like a little surprise gift.
“Design is meditative. Therapeutic. It’s about the nearly audible humming sound in my ears when typography is balanced and everything is composed just so. It’s the joy and confidence that comes with being able to do something that not many others can do as well. It feels like contributing to the rightness of the world, creating order from chaos.”—Taylor LeCroy, Designing vs. Managing Designers
“We attempt to conceal ourselves, Emily, but the truth is we do not entirely want to be concealed. We want to be found. Everyone, sooner or later, discovers this: that within perfect walls, there is nothing worth protecting. There is, in fact, nothing. And so we exchange privacy for intimacy. We gamble with it, hoping that by exposing ourselves, someone will find a way in. This is why the human animal will always be vulnerable: because it wants to be.”—Lexicon, Max Barry
Brace yourself. I’m about to get all “Back in my day” on you.
You see, back in my day, road trips were different. Most notably when it came to music selection. Due to limited space in our family car my brother and I each acquired a small travel suitcase that could hold exactly 12 cassette tapes (It looked like this), and before each road trip we had to go through our hundreds of tapes and rapture a chosen few to be our companions along the way.
Picking the music for a trip was a big ordeal, one that started several weeks before our scheduled departure. There are a lot of factors to consider when one can only listen to 12 albums for about 2 weeks on the road. For example, you can’t just pick music based on how you feel on the day you’re making your choices. Who knows how many different moods you’ll go through while you’re stuck in a car with 3 other people for days on end? So you have to choose happy music, sad music, and everything in between.
An album’s length is also important. You can’t have a bunch of 35 minute albums in the case — that’s a lot of dead air that could be filled with musical sounds. This introduces another trade-off, though. It doesn’t help to have a 55 minute album but you only like 2 of the songs on it. Then it would be better to pick that 40 minute album with 30 minutes of great music on it.
Here’s another thing — my brother and I didn’t want to duplicate efforts. So we would start our work independently, but then compare suitcases so that there would be no overlap, and to make sure that our selections were evenly spread out over all the moods we might find ourselves in.
And on and on it goes. Choosing road trip music was agonizing art, with very little room for error. The disappointment of being halfway across the country when you realize you’re just not into that Belinda Carlisle album any more can be pretty devastating. But man, when it worked — when you listened to Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell over and over and over, and you know you made the right choice? Nothing could beat that feeling.
Road trips are different now. Our little family took a drive from Portland to Bend for Memorial Day weekend (past Smith Rock, pictured above), and I didn’t give music a single thought before we got in the car. I had a charger, a phone with an LTE connection, and access to any song our hearts might desire through the magic of Spotify. In fact, we didn’t even have to figure out what kind of music would match our moods — Pandora did that for us.
Look, I’m not complaining. These new tools have done wonders for our music discovery. Just last weekend we went to a live show because Songkick went through my Spotify library and noticed that one of the artists on my playlists were in town. That’s amazing. But I do miss the meticulousness that music selection used to require. We always talk about how boundaries spark creativity, and it’s true here as well.
Without the boundaries imposed by my little tape suitcase I don’t have to work hard to figure out what music to listen to next. There’s no friction, but here’s the thing: there’s also no victory. The glory (and sometimes the agony) of closing that suitcase for the last time the night before the road trip begins — hoping and praying that you made the right tradeoffs — is just not there. And I wonder if the loss of analogue boundaries hurt our appreciation of art just a little bit. Not enough to make me stop using Spotify, but enough to make road trips that fraction less fun than it used to be.
“By the 1980s, the wristwatch had become, as York University humanities professor Douglas Freake dubs it, “perhaps the most important cybernetic device in contemporary industrialized societies.” We were cyborgs of time. And slaves, too, as critics pointed out. Wristwatches may have made us more efficient, but as humanists had long fretted, perhaps total efficiency is a creepy goal for everyday life.”—Clive Thompson
“It’s never been so easy to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything. We pick topical, relevant bits from Facebook, Twitter or emailed news alerts, and then regurgitate them. Instead of watching “Mad Men” or the Super Bowl or the Oscars or a presidential debate, you can simply scroll through someone else’s live-tweeting of it, or read the recaps the next day. Our cultural canon is becoming determined by whatever gets the most clicks.”—Karl Greenfeld, Faking Cultural Literacy
“If the first Internet was “Getting information online,” the second was “Getting the information organized” and the third was “Getting everyone connected” the fourth is definitely “Get mine.” Which is a trap.”—Alexia Tsotsis, The Fourth Internet.
“But what dates the show most is its optimism: It was the last pop-culture show that believed, beyond any doubt, that human beings were good and that, liberated by infinite technological progress, we would encounter an infinitely wonderful universe.”—Stephen Marche in Star Trek: The Last Sci Fi Hopeful About the Future .
“A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson (via byrnes)
We arrived in Portland about 6 weeks ago, and even though we’re brand new here, I can already confirm that this is probably the most accurate portrayal of the city that you’ll ever read.
Saying that moving countries is hard would be an understatement. It’s way more than hard — it’s brutal. And yet we chose this, so we don’t have anyone to blame but ourselves. I also know that it could have been a lot harder if we moved somewhere less open to newcomers.
Portland has welcomed us with open arms, and I have since decided to return the embrace. From growing a beard, to starting to bike to work, to my (amazing) visit to The Modern Man, I’ve endured my share of ridicule about my new Portlandia lifestyle. But you know what? I’m ok with that. Because that’s the Portland way: to be whoever you want to be, to be ok with it, and to realize that other people don’t have to like it.
So despite the endless challenges involved in setting up a new life, I’m happy here. I’m happy because this is a city of people who want to be here. They smile, they help you out, they yell at you if you break one of the many self-imposed rules of what it means to be here (“Pedestrians on the LEFT!!!”).
My favorite thing about Portland so far might seem small, but it’s significant in my mind. When you’re ready to leave a coffee shop you don’t just get up and go. You take your cup and carry it to a container somewhere in the corner so that the baristas don’t have to come around and pick up after you. There is something in that unspoken rule that perfectly sums up what Portland is about. It says, hey, don’t be lazy. We’re in this together. Carry your own damn cups.
“Today’s wearables face other constraints, such as limited modes of sensing and the sometimes isolated nature of the services that process the data. Viewing the data without the context of other data, or choosing the wrong data to assess, can lead to invalid conclusions. Likewise, choosing too many data points can lead to overwhelming noise or muted results. ”—Eric Boam and Jarrett Webb, The Qualified Self: Going Beyond Quantification.
“Robots were ostensibly meant to allow us to work less. Yet we seem now to be attempting a fusion with robots in order brute force our brains into a persistent state of “peak productivity.” Not only is this questionable from a scientific perspective, but just because we can does not mean we should.”—Andrew Smart, Don’t be afraid of robots—be afraid of becoming one.
“Back when I could not bear pictures of myself, I used to take artsy photos of buildings, of my feet in exotic locations, to show people where I’d been. Is it really less self-involved to take 100 photos of your dog, or your new baby, or your latest meal? Vanity isn’t simply the impulse to turn a camera on yourself. It can be the very intense impulse to get out of the frame.”—
“The rise of “so” is another symptom that our communication and conversational lives are chopped up and discontinuous in actual fact, but that we try in several ways to sew them together — or ‘so’ them together, as it were — in order to create a continuous experience.”—Follow My Logic? A Connective Word Takes the Lead
What Office provides is a language for doing office things. You don’t go in front of an audience without a PowerPoint deck. Businesspeople “live” in Excel; its language (it actually is a crypto-programming language) has become the language of money and budgets. People who do work with symbols and language to make a living organize their thoughts into the containers and systems that Office provides. Office is not so much a software product as a dialect that we all speak as we proceed about our labors.
In 2011, the organizational psychologist Matthew Davis reviewed more than a hundred studies about office environments. He found that, though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprise, they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction. Compared with standard offices, employees experienced more uncontrolled interactions, higher levels of stress, and lower levels of concentration and motivation. When David Craig surveyed some thirty-eight thousand workers, he found that interruptions by colleagues were detrimental to productivity, and that the more senior the employee, the worse she fared.
“Consider making a program for people, not a program for a computer. I don’t want a new app to help me do work; I want different ways to think about work so I can get more done. It’s a nuanced difference, but I think it is an important one.”—Frank Chimero
“I’ve never believed that one should wait until one is inspired, because I think that the pleasures of not writing are so great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again.”—John Updike
Infants are the drill sergeants of parenting bootcamp. They give you four basic tasks — diapers, burping, feeding, and napping — and then scream at you when you do them wrong. There’s no encouragement, no smiles, just crying and quiet. And they give you tasks at any time, day or night. Just finished changing my diaper? Change it again. Good job, now change that one.
After a few months of breaking you down, they build you back up again. They smile at you. They sleep through the night. They hold their head up, so you don’t have to.
And after it’s over, the tasks you learned — swaddling, diapering, bottle prepping — are tasks you will likely never use again. But the skills you’ve gained — patience without sleep, calm in the face of screams, moving your hand into the shit instead of recoiling — are skills that will serve you the rest of your life.