Quotes


Tactile and visual memory

As onerous as it might be, the very process of filing things physically helped to organize your work life and your life life. In the same way people acquire and retain information better when handwriting rather than keyboarding, manually going through papers and positioning them in a physical space reinforces the information.

For those with a tactile or visual orientation, placing documents in a particular place imprints them in your brain: the folded corner, the weight and smell of the paper. “I remember putting that memo with the chart here in the back,” you’d think to yourself, making your way to the rear of filing cabinet K-M.


Files not meant to see

Surely [digital filing] is more organized. Surely it is more efficient and secure. Surely it is cleaner and more environmentally friendly (especially if we ignore the power required to keep the servers running). On these unearthly planes, it’s harder for people to accidentally stumble across something they weren’t meant to see (darn); no forgotten documents peek out mischievously from a manila folder begging to be read (ooh). No longer does the simple act of rifling turn up something damning or private; it now requires special I.T. skills to sneak such files open.

Yet not being able to find these things — whether we were meant to or not — also means we’ve lost something too.


Joakim on modest art

Everybody is brought up with the idea that you need to make great art. But most of the things that I listen to and I really love is very modest art. Like, even if you think of library music, it’s not made to be art. It’s made to be used for commercials. But there’s so much love in the craft that it becomes amazing. And it’s very modest. I think this struggle is a good thing to go back to, and retreat from. It makes you progress. Even if you’re not going to make the greatest record or write the greatest novel, the process of doing it helps you progress.


Humor and music

Prince has a humorous streak, David Bowie has a humorous streak, The Beatles had a humorous streak. Humourless music is not nice music as far as I’m concerned. I’m not trying to compare Metronomy to Prince, but I think people often forget that being humorous and being cool are not mutually exclusive things.

I only really think it’s important in as far as it allows you to see what you do from a different, less self-absorbed perspective. There are countless musicians out there who take themselves way way way too seriously.


Polish poster art

The artists used their work to convey their disdain for the Soviet regime and against the use of violence but did so with humour and charm, and always subtly enough to get past the censors.

They also shunned conventional layouts and hierarchy by integrating type and graphics rather than viewing them as separate elements. It may have been partly because fonts weren't available, so every letter was hand-drawn.

[...]

Henryk Tomaszewski, who's the founding father of the Polish School of Posters, forged a deal with the Communist state, which changed the course of modern graphic design. Approached by the Ministry of Arts and Culture to design a film poster, he said he would only do it if he was given complete artistic free rein.

They agreed. The only rule was that he, and subsequent poster artists, must not do things the way they were done in the West. And as long as the artists avoided politics, they were left to their own devices.


The internet sucks

The internet sucks because people keep pretending that it's a vital utility that supports all government, industry and commerce instead of a place to make silly jokes and argue and make web pages about things you like. The internet was a nice little house party with you and two dozen friends and cool acquaintances. The air and the vibes had that quality to it that anything could happen. An orgy. An indie film. Getting hammered and doing insane stunts. Something magical. And then government agents busted in and jumped up on the tables demanding people use coasters and kept changing the playlist under gunpoint and media companies flooded it with shills trying to get people to try their products or sign up for horrible subscriptions and take pictures of everyone all the time. And then they started bussing everyone's parents in. And grandparents. And your boss. And then they locked the doors. That's the internet.

  • chaosbreather
  • Something Awful Forums

Stories from the Fourteen Foot Bank Lighthouse

James C. Jones was appointed the first head keeper of the lighthouse and served in this capacity until his passing in 1895. In June 1911, Assistant Keeper Lewis F. Robinson committed suicide at Fourteen Foot Bank by drinking carbolic acid. His companion at the lighthouse heard Robinson cry for help after downing the liquid, but all he could do was watch Robinson die in agony, after expressing remorse for his act. The previous December, Keeper Robinson broke his ankle at the lighthouse and had to wait two weeks before being able to get off the station and receive medical attention. A newspaper article reporting his death conjectured that “the sufferings he endured while ill affected his mind and that led him to commit the rash deed.”

Fourteen Foot Bank was the first assignment in the lengthy career of Chester P. Joseph. During the winter of 1917-1918, Keeper Joseph was stranded at the station for three straight months, as heavy ice floes prevented any relief from reaching the lighthouse. Joseph and the other marooned keeper busied themselves with every conceivable task, but life soon became monotonous. The ice fields that occasionally banged against the foundation did provide some excitement, as they would cause any unsecured item on a table or countertop to slowly migrate to the edge and fall off. After the ordeal, Joseph confessed, “I don’t believe I ever was as tired looking at one person in my life.”

On November 15, 1931, a party of three female high school teachers and five young men from Millville, New Jersey became lost in their motorboat during a thick fog. After exhausting their supply of food and water and nearly their fuel, the group made it to Fourteen Foot Bank Lighthouse the following day by following the sound of its foghorn and was welcomed aboard by its keepers. An intensive search for the missing boat had been launched by the Coast Guard, but it wasn’t until a relief keeper was brought to the station on November 17, that news of the group’s whereabouts made it to shore. Later on the 17th, a Coast Guard vessel took the group off the lighthouse, and with their motorboat in tow, returned them to Millville.


The Peter Principle

This is known as the Peter principle, a management concept developed by Laurence J. Peter in the late ’60s that posits that a person who’s good at their job in a hierarchical organization will invariably be promoted to a position that requires different skills, until they’re eventually promoted to something they can’t do, at which point they’ve reached their “maximum incompetence.”


Zettelkasten for notes

In regular note-taking, connections between ideas are not made by default. When reviewing a note, other relevant notes (i.e., ideas) don’t present themselves.

[...]

The key is to make connections between ideas during note-taking, way before you need to review them for your work. This forces you to actively connect the dots (during note-taking) and lets you find relevant ideas with ease in future.


Yuill & Martin on dyadic synchronal posturing

[...] when a mother read from paper, she often held the book between herself and the child, with the child very close to her, either tucked under her arm to facilitate visual sharing or in a very relaxed posture with audio sharing, but little sight of the book.


Yuill & Martin on children in ‘head-down’ position

When children read from a screen, they tended to hold the tablet in a ‘head-down’ posture typical of solo uses [...] leading [the mothers] to curl round behind the child in order to ‘shoulder-surf’ the screen, rather than adopting the ‘curled-up’ position common when reading the paper book.


YouTube Panoply

The other day, I was spending time with a young niece – still a toddler – while she watched videos on her iPad. She was working her way through a YouTube playlist – in each video, a pair of hands opened a Kinder Surprise and assembled the toy inside. Thinking I was doing her a favour, I made the video full-screen. But this sent my niece into a panic. "Little TV!" she insisted. "Not big TV!" She needed the smaller screen format so as to monitor the lineup of videos still to come. Focusing, even for a minute, on a single video was no good. She needed the panoply, the stream, the comfort of attending entertainments.


Writing is a process of discovery

There is, however, one thing to learn from writers that non-writers don’t always understand. Most writers don’t write to express what they think. They write to figure out what they think. Writing is a process of discovery. Blogging is an essential tool toward meditating over an extended period of time on a subject you consider to be important.



Why adventure games suck

I enjoy games in which the pace is slow and the reward is for thinking and figuring, rather than quick reflexes. The element that brings adventure games to life for me is the stories around which they are woven. When done right, it is a form of storytelling that can be engrossing in a way that only interaction can bring. [...] If any type of game is going to bridge the gap between games and storytelling, it is most likely going to be adventure games. They will become less puzzle solving and more story telling, it is the blueprint the future will be made from.


Unfilled moments

Unfilled moments, moments where you don’t have entertainment, or moments where you don’t have companionship, may actually spawn creativity. Certainly a lot of 19th-century romantics thought that.

Being still with yourself can give access to all sorts of ideas and musings that wouldn’t otherwise occur. So perhaps in our quest to end boredom our creativity is being stunted, and we’re actually becoming more boring.


Time disappears

The best part of working on this series is how time disappears. I don’t know where it is I go when I’m using the brush, but at some point I come back and there is a little painting.

  • Lynda Barry
  • Instagram
  • (On painting the same image over and over)

The “So What?” Test

If you’re unsure about whether to share something, let it sit for 24 hours. Put it in a drawer and walk out the door. The next day, take it out and look at it with fresh eyes. Ask yourself, “Is this helpful? Is it entertaining? Is it something I’d be comfortable with my boss or my mother seeing?” There’s nothing wrong with saving things for later. The SAVE AS DRAFT button is like a prophylactic - it might not feel as good in the moment, but you’ll be glad you used it in the morning.


The power of metaphor

To fully appreciate the power of metaphor (and it’s more formal cousin, analogy), we must look to its oft-neglected role in science and technology. We speak of a genetic “code” or “blueprint”. We explain the structure of the atom to schoolchildren by analogy with the solar system. We think of the brain as a machine, or a computer, or a social network. These metaphors and analogies can help impart new ideas to the student and the layperson.


That third place

One of the most mysterious things about drawing fast is how the drawings accumulate some kind of aliveness that I can’t recognize at all when I’m making them. None of these drawings made me happy or satisfied me while I was making them. But later they made me laugh. Especially the ones I’d thought were ‘failures’. Those are the ones that seem the most alive to me later. I was writing to someone about it. Saying that these are the ones that are impossible to do on purpose and impossible to really copy. The spontaneous gesture is in the line. That third place.


Takacs on children’s multimedia

As motion and zooming may direct children’s attention to a detail of the illustration in a similar way as an adult pointing at the detail and providing comments or explanations, multimedia may be just as beneficial in supporting story and language comprehension as interaction with an adult explaining the meanings of the story and sophisticated words in the narration.


Superorganism mind

I think the assumption of a high degree of common interest is important to this idea of a superorganism, the expectation that it acts as a unitary, cognitive entity. In other societies where the integration is not as tight, it might be less fruitful to treat them as a single mind.

[...]

Obviously, there are a lot of differences between insect societies and human societies. If we find commonalities in how they behave, maybe that’s revealing.


Sister Corita’s Tree

After being a nun in Los Angeles for thirty years, Corita Kent moved across the country to Boston so she could live quietly and make her art. Her apartment had a big bay window and a maple tree out front, and she liked to sit there and observe the tree changing throughout the seasons.

[...]

For Kent, the tree came to represent creativity itself. Like a tree, creative work has seasons. Part of the work is to know which season you’re in, and act accordingly. In winter, “the tree looks dead, but we know it’s beginning a very deep process, out of which will come spring and summer.”


Sean Parrish on “the illusion of knowledge”

“Most of consuming the news is us letting other people think for us,” he says. “Somebody else giving us an opinion that we take as our own. We forget that we get it from somebody else, somebody who's paid to come up with hundreds of opinions a year on a variety of subjects.”

[...]

“Then you go talk about this thing, but you really have no idea what you're talking about,” says Parrish. “You don't know the nuances of the law. You've never read it. You don't know the second- and third-order impact. You know what this person in this newspaper or mainstream media wrote about it. That's the extent of your knowledge. That is the illusion of knowledge.”


Scuba diver in the sea of words

As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.


Scale tricks for inking

I could never adjust to the “half-up” (150%) scale at which mainstream comics had to be drawn. I preferred to work twice up and that wasn’t an option.

[...]

I often photocopy a sketched frame, reducing or enlarging it to a size I think more pleasing, and then tape it back on the tracing paper, which looks like a patchwork quilt by the time I’m finished.

  • Paul Kirchner
  • “Sex, Drugs & Public Transportation: My Strange Trip Through Comics”
  • From “Awaiting the Collapse”, Tanibis Editions, 2017

Revisiting notes

But, really, it doesn’t matter how your [reading/note-taking] system works. It only matters that you have a system. Why? So that you can have a catalog of ideas that you can revisit. Parrish organizes his blank sheets by putting them into topic binders [...], and then sits down to look at his binders about once every two months. Over time, he finds himself remembering things and making connections he may not have otherwise, mastering these various subjects.

“Not only do you understand the book at a different level, but you're writing it down. It's tangible. Instead of rereading all these books, you can just pick up this binder. ‘Oh, this is great. I want to go back to this story. Maybe I missed something [here].’ You're connecting things across different domains or different situations. That's effectively how we improve our thinking.”


Remapping the neural circuitry

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. [...] Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.


Reading gains and losses

One thing that changed pretty dramatically is that the visual cortex, the part of our brain that processes our vision, became dedicated to deciphering text. [...]

As we practice that, more and more neurons get dedicated to reading. Eventually, you no longer have to decipher a particular letter or even a particular word because our brains represent those letters and words — it’s automatic. So we got all the benefits that come with being good readers, whether it’s the value of losing yourself in a novel or the value of gaining complex information from some sophisticated nonfiction book.

But we also lost something. One thing we lost is a lot of our visual acuity in reading nature and reading the world. If you look at older cultures that aren’t text-based, you see incredible abilities to, for instance, navigate by all sorts of natural signs. This acuity in reading the world, which also requires a lot of the visual cortex, we lost some of that simply because we had to reprogram our brain to become good readers.


Read promiscuously

To read promiscuously is to comprehend the caresses of one work in the arms of another—and the promiscuous reader is a pedagogue par excellence. How should we read? We would read as gourmands eat, gobbling down huge gobbets of text. No one told me not to pivot abruptly from Valley of the Dolls to The Brothers Karamazov—so I did; anymore than they warned me not to intersperse passages of Fanny Hill with those written by Frantz Fanon—so I did that, too. By reading indiscriminately, I learned to discriminate—and learned also to comprehend: for it’s only with the acquisition of large data sets that we also develop schemas supple enough to interpret new material.


Primed for distraction

The suggestion that, in a few generations, our experience of media will be reinvented shouldn't surprise us. We should, instead, marvel at the fact we ever read books at all. Great researchers such as Maryanne Wolf and Alison Gopnik remind us that the human brain was never designed to read. Rather, elements of the visual cortex – which evolved for other purposes – were hijacked in order to pull off the trick. The deep reading that a novel demands doesn't come easy and it was never "natural." Our default state is, if anything, one of distractedness. The gaze shifts, the attention flits; we scour the environment for clues. (Otherwise, that predator in the shadows might eat us.) How primed are we for distraction? One famous study found humans would rather give themselves electric shocks than sit alone with their thoughts for 10 minutes. We disobey those instincts every time we get lost in a book.


Ordinary superpower

Draw ten five minute cats. Use a timer. Don’t stop. In less than an hour you will get to know some cat that starts showing up under your brush. No by willful effort, but by some sort of being together over a period of time. A drawing of a cat can be that, a being together with the image you make of the cat and then five minutes later you can draw the same cat to see what it is up to. Maybe it’s in the same position, maybe it has gone to sleep. But I like to imagine this place where the cat is being itself and I can somehow pull up pictures from that place onto the paper. It becomes a kind of conjuring. And ordinary superpower.


Off to the reading state

The heightened state brought on by a book—in which one is “actively present at every moment, scripting and constructing”—is what readers seek, Birkerts argues: “They want plot and character, sure, but what they really want is a vehicle that will bear them off to the reading state.”


Nietzsche’s typewriter

...the [typewriter] had a subtler effect on his work. One of Nietzsche’s friends, a composer, noticed a change in the style of his writing. His already terse prose had become even tighter, more telegraphic. “Perhaps you will through this instrument even take to a new idiom,” the friend wrote in a letter, noting that, in his own work, his “‘thoughts’ in music and language often depend on the quality of pen and paper.”

“You are right,” Nietzsche replied, “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.” Under the sway of the machine, writes the German media scholar Friedrich A. Kittler , Nietzsche’s prose “changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style.”


Myrmecologist quote

The Finnish myrmecologist Rainer Rosengren showed that when the ants emerge in the spring, an older ant goes out with a young one along the older ant’s habitual trail. The older ant dies and the younger ant adopts that trail as its own, thus leading the colony to remember, or reproduce, the previous year’s trails.


Mortal turkey combat

While residents have to work together to hunt salmon, salmon don’t fight back. For the transients, Hafey said, every meal is a potential death match: “It’s as if every time you opened the fridge you had to have mortal combat with a turkey to get a sandwich.”

[...] residents and transients have lived separate lives for at least a quarter-million years. They generally do their best to avoid each other, and they don’t even speak the same language—the patterns and sounds they use to communicate are completely different. Over time, each type has established cultural traditions that are passed from generation to generation. While transients’ small groups enable them to hunt more quietly and effectively, residents’ large extended families allow them to work together to locate and forage for fish. Biology isn’t destiny, but for orcas, food sources might be.


Mort Drucker’s chicken fat

...Drucker’s art partakes in the most venerable MAD tradition of all: the “chicken fat” aesthetic, the stuffing of panels with sight gags and visual digressions pioneered by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder (and defined by Elder as the inessential “parts of the strip that gave it more flavor,” as chicken fat gave more flavor to his mother’s soup, “but did very little to advance the storyline”).




Michael DeForge on personal drawing style

It’s hard to reassure someone young that they’ll one day be completely sick of “their style”, that they’ll be working overtime to unlearn all their habits and tics that make it up. I try to switch up how I draw things from project to project pretty dramatically. Something inspiring to me about Wendy is how elastic her design is, though. I was aiming for something similarly elastic when I drew Brat and Stunt, or a few of my shorts. That seems like a good way out of feeling too locked in to any one style or design choice, to draw characters and create worlds you can kind of contort however you need.


Metaphier and metaphrand

Jaynes described a metaphor as comprising of two parts. The metaphrand is the thing to be described or understood, and the metaphier is the more familiar thing with which it is compared. The human body is a very common metaphier; we speak of the head of a table, the foot of a mountain, the face and hands of a clock, and the mouth of a river.


Matuschak on transmissionism

Lectures, as a medium, have no carefully-considered cognitive model at their foundation. Yet if we were aliens observing typical lectures from afar, we might notice the implicit model they appear to share: “the lecturer says words describing an idea; the class hears the words and maybe scribbles in a notebook; then the class understands the idea.” In learning sciences, we call this model “transmissionism.” It’s the notion that knowledge can be directly transmitted from teacher to student, like transcribing text from one page onto another. If only! The idea is so thoroughly discredited that “transmissionism” is only used pejoratively, in reference to naive historical teaching practices. Or as an ad-hominem in juicy academic spats.


Matuschak on book absorbtion

Have you ever had a book like this—one you’d read—come up in conversation, only to discover that you’d absorbed what amounts to a few sentences? I’ll be honest: it happens to me regularly. Often things go well at first. I’ll feel I can sketch the basic claims, paint the surface; but when someone asks a basic probing question, the edifice instantly collapses. Sometimes it’s a memory issue: I simply can’t recall the relevant details. But just as often, as I grasp about, I’ll realize I had never really understood the idea in question, though I’d certainly thought I understood when I read the book. Indeed, I’ll realize that I had barely noticed how little I’d absorbed until that very moment.

[...]

Some people may have read Thinking, Fast and Slow for entertainment value, but in exchange for their tens of millions of collective hours, I suspect many readers—or maybe even most readers—expected to walk away with more. Why else would we feel so startled when we notice how little we’ve absorbed from something we’ve read?

All this suggests a peculiar conclusion: as a medium, books are surprisingly bad at conveying knowledge, and readers mostly don’t realize it.


Matt Webb’s “Social Attention” prototype

Right now the web is either fully social, like when you’re collaborating in Google Docs, or it’s a solitary experience. There’s very little between. Yes you do sometimes get moments that are almost social, like when you read a product review on Amazon or a comment on a blog post, but it’s like walking into a room that somebody’s just left: there’s a note on the table, and the door on the far end is closing shut.

[...]

And yes, I know that Medium and Amazon Kindle share text highlights, but that happens only once it has been highlighted – I want something that lets you see life on the other side of the screen. Especially because it becomes suddenly more useful when you’re coordinating with someone else in a different channel. And, yes, of course there are more fully transparent systems like live cursors or annotations… but this is a blog and not a chatroom. I want the patina of fingerprints, the quiet and comfortable background hum of a library.


Marsh on contemporary digital cultures

[...] contemporary digital cultures provide rich opportunities for the promotion of play that is rooted in children’s everyday experiences. This is not [...] an inferior form of play; rather, it sits alongside more traditional play activities and is important for creative development


Magical scientist ability

[...] metaphor is more than a classroom aid. It is a crucial element of discovery and invention. Scientists are not blessed with a magical ability to apprehend the world as a vortex of symbols and equations, as Neo appeared to do in the film The Matrix. Scientists, like everyone else, seek to cast what they see in terms of what they have already seen.


Louis Cole on Money

This song isn’t me asking for money, and this song isn’t me saying that its bad to make money. In fact ever since I released the song “bank account” (when money was real low a lot) I’ve been living pretty comfortably. The point of the song is: my mission with music is not to make money, my mission is to make the best music I possibly can. And shittily, that is not the mission of a lot of music you have heard. A lot of music is money driven. And that $ mindset dilutes the absolute FUCK out of the realness and spirit of art. So I’m saying I want to keep the money separate from the art, and I really actually only need enough money to be able to live a life where I can create freely (food, shelter, instruments, no day job), that is TRULY the ultimate dream life as a die hard artist.


Yuill on shared e-books

We believe that designers could think more about how [e-books] can be designed for sharing [...] Book Trust figures report a drop from 86 per cent of parents reading with their five-year-olds to just 38 per cent with 11-year-olds. There is a possibility that the clever redesign of e-books and tablets might just slow that trend.


Look at me creating

My essay was garbage. But it was my garbage.

So I kept at it, day after day. I once again started feeling smugly superior to my fellow bus riders. Look at me creating, I thought. Look at me contributing to the world, while these reptiles just distract themselves with their phones until they die.

This arrogance lasts for a few seconds until I re-read the stream-of-consciousness dogshit I’m typing into my phone.

  • Tom Cleveland
  • TJCX.me
  • August 21, 2019

Literature and storytelling games

When a technology is surpassed, and we can see the book as a form of technology, it is rarely rendered entirely obsolete. Often, it becomes a niche concern or finds that its very limitations are strengths. The simplicity, clarity and imaginative capacity of literature offers something that games, which immerse the player in immaculately-rendered environments, can lack.

Games like 80 Days, for instance, have revived the tradition while others like Firewatch have incorporated aspects of text-based adventures. And while games like Gone Home and Tacoma are spatial explorations, there are traces of literary mysteries within them, in the way clues emerge, stories unfold and the player becomes increasingly absorbed. The balance of storytelling and interactivity is key. We want to feel we discover things, even when they were placed there for us to find.


Le style atome

The team's cartooning technique – partly inherited but soon individualised – was an animated, breezy, ultra-modern one. Eventually, it became known as 'le style atome'. This moniker derived from the 1958 Brussels World's Fair, whose signature was a sculpture called 'the Atomium'. An outsized icon of Populuxe design, this seemed to match the sparky visual spirit of post-War Spirou. Certainly it paralleled the artists' angular shapes, their streamlined drawings and a use of bright, sharp colours. Graphically much brasher than Hergé's ligne claire, le style atome gave a nod to '50s and '60s US culture. It featured rounder speech bubbles instead of rectangles and privileged short, spunky dialogue over declamations.

[...]

Spirou's energetic art is now known as "the Marcinelle school" or "the school of Charleroi". Both terms refer to the site of the Dupuis' printing firm. But those artists who worked with Jijé had a different name for it. They called the work gros nez – or "big nose" – comedy.

The flipside of Marcinelle art was found in the pages of Tintin. A vehicle for Hergé's hero, this weekly was the laboratory of a rival "Brussels' school". Just as Marcinelle art reflected Jijé’s temperament, the Tintin employees operated in Hergé's shadow. Their highly polished work was required to resemble his and, in their atelier, an artist wore his suit and tie. He would labour to produce pristine pages, with refined lines underscored by un-shaded colour.


Kucirkova on self-reading children’s books

For Kucirkova, improving digital books is a matter of “social justice”. “Unfortunately, many digital books are of really low quality,” she said. “We mustn’t forget that there are many families where reading is not an activity that adults enjoy and they might not enjoy it with their children. So in those families, having a book that reads to the child is a huge asset. At the very least, we need to equalize the quality of the two formats.”

“I’m not saying that the digital book can ever replace the loving adult. I’m just saying that it can be a good substitute if there is nothing else,” she added.


Kirchner on visual storytelling

I like telling a story without dialog. It forces the reader to fill in what’s happening, and as long as the narrative is clear I think the reader gets satisfaction from that. I’ve heard it said that a humorous story always leaves out a key element that the audience must fill in, and the satisfaction of making that connection – “getting it” – provokes the laugh. Omitting dialog is one way to force the reader to fill in the blanks.

  • Paul Kirchner
  • Postscript in “The Bus”, June 2015

Just another thing on the internet

One of the attendees wears a T-shirt depicting Harambe, the zoo gorilla whose death had been an Internet sensation shortly after Dat Boi faded from memory. Marantz asks him to explain it: “‘It’s a funny thing people say, or post, or whatever,’ he said. ‘It’s, like—it’s just a thing on the internet.’” Marantz pauses to emphasize his own familiarity with the sort of numbness that goes with experiencing “much of life through the mediating effects of a screen,” and observes, “It wasn’t hard for me to imagine how anything—a dead gorilla, a gas chamber, a presidential election, a moral principle—could start to seem like just another thing on the internet.”


Information overload

Yet back [in 2010] the evidence already was strongly suggesting that the internet was a very powerful way to access lots of information very quickly. We were all concentrating on that great new bounty of information: the more information, the better — the faster it comes to me, the better.

What we lost sight of was how we actually take that information into our mind. There’s all sorts of very good evidence that if you’re distracted — if your attention is shifting very quickly — you can gather lots of information in a very swift fashion, but you’re not going to assemble it very well into knowledge. It’s going to just remain bits of information. You’re not going to develop a rich store of personal knowledge, which is all about connections and associations.


Franquin’s “energy of the line”

Inside the frames, everything is concrete, everything is charged with the energy of the line. The speech bubbles, the paper lying around on the floor, the exclamation points…nothing can be inanimate; everything has to come alive. Fantasio's anger is more than simply buggy eyes, dishevelled hair and a wide, gaping mouth. It's also puffs of cloud around him, lines that tremble like forceful cries and the tail of a speech balloon turned into a zigzag of lightning. There are so many graphic incarnations of the intangible, of invisible and interior moods… it makes metaphysical anguish absolutely palpable.


Frank Chimero on work

I read once that hunting and gathering societies only work about 20 hours a week. Learning that got under my skin really bad. Wednesday is just as much a part of your life as Saturday, but you have to remind people of that. [...] My life is going to be filled with just as many Wednesdays as Saturdays, and I would like to claim more than 2/7ths of my life for myself, thanks.



Flewitt on iPad use

[...] well planned literacy-related iPad activities stimulated children’s motivation and concentration, and offered rich opportunities for communications, collaborative interaction, independent learning and enthusiastic learning dispositions. [...] immediate feedback, along with tangible and satisfying end products, motivated children to engage deeply with iPad-based literacy activities, which as one practitioner commented, attracted their attention like ‘bees to a honeypot’


Flewitt on cultural artefacts

“[...] we regard literacy learning as social in origin and mediated through action and interaction using cultural artefacts. These artefacts evolve over time as societies develop, and in the current era, we argue that literate activity is characterised by the use of both print and digital media. Particularly when using digital devices, meanings can be expressed through multiple modes of symbolic representation, such as combinations of spoken and written language, images, icons, sounds, layout and animation.”


Finding space to be alone in the 18th century

This reminds us of a problem which has faced people for much of history. Finding space to be alone was a challenge for rich and poor alike. Larger households would be filled with staff, while in the houses of those lower down the social scale, there was simply not enough room. The lack of privacy caused by all these bodies jostling for space was compounded by the nature of premodern architecture. Until corridors came into fashion during the 18th century (which in itself affected only the wealthiest households), houses were designed en enfilade, with rooms running onto each other. Household traffic was not contained within corridors, but rather moved through rooms, meaning that doors could (and did) swing open at compromising moments.

  • Martha Bailey (History Today)
  • All By Myself
  • Published in History Today Volume 71 Issue 3 March 2021

Farnham Street Note-taking tips

At the end of each chapter write a few bullet points that summarize what you’ve read and make it personal if you can — that is, apply it to something in your life. Also, note any unanswered questions. When you’re done the book, put it down for a week.

Pick up the book again and go through all your notes. Most of these will be garbage but there will be lots you want to remember. Write the good stuff on the inside cover of the book along with a page number.

Copy out the excerpts by hand or take a picture of them to pop into [archive]. Tag accordingly.



Do you believe in Hobbes?

One day, I asked Otis what he thought of Hobbes. “What do you believe? Is he real or is he stuffed?” In a tone that connoted my knucklehead status, my son answered, “He’s a real tiger, but for some reason grown-ups think he’s a stuffed animal. I guess they just don’t know any better.”

His explanation silenced me. I realized I’d made a grave mistake. I was one of the (stupid) grown-ups. [...] Whether Hobbes was live or stuffed was beside the point. To believe in Hobbes is to believe in the power of imagination.



Deep time

I can still find, slipped like a note between the pages, what Birkerts calls the “time of the self… deep time, duration time, time that is essentially characterized by our obliviousness to it.” The gift of reading, the gift of any encounter with art, is that this time spent doesn’t leave me when I lift my eyes from the book in my lap: it lingers, for a minute or a day.


Cynical readers

...online life makes me into a different kind of reader – a cynical one. I scrounge, now, for the useful fact; I zero in on the shareable link. My attention – and thus my experience – fractures. Online reading is about clicks, and comments, and points. When I take that mindset and try to apply it to a beaten-up paperback, my mind bucks.

[...]

When we become cynical readers – when we read in the disjointed, goal-oriented way that online life encourages – we stop exercising our attention. We stop reading with a sense of faith that some larger purpose may be served. This doesn't mean we're reading less – not at all. In fact, we live in a text-gorged society in which the most fleeting thought is a thumb-dash away from posterity. [...] For myself: I know I'm not reading less, but I also know I'm reading worse.


Creative work is good for the soul

I am now in my sixties and drawing comics again has rejuvenated me. It is not only that I am doing the kind of work I did in my youth, but that I am directing my mind to think along the same lines that it did back then. [...] To do creative work is good for the soul. As long as you have an enthusiasm, you have happiness.

  • Paul Kirchner
  • “Awaiting the Collapse” (2017)


Comforting fictions

Story-telling, especially at an impressionable age, is a way of understanding ourselves and our surroundings.

As adults, we prefer stories, like our lives, to be predictable, to be fixed, to have the comfort of formulas that every soap opera and most films conform with. Yet life is messy. It contains accidents, contradictions, loose ends. There is probably no plot and yet there are more possibilities than we dare imagine. Ultimately, none end very well. There’s a vertigo to contemplating such matters but it is more truthful and ironically less childish than the comforting fictions we adhere to.


Children’s screen-time guidelines too restrictive

...moderate screen-use above the recommended limits might actually be linked to slightly higher levels of children’s wellbeing.

Lead author Dr Andrew Pryzbylski, of the Oxford Internet Institute, said: ‘Taken together, our findings suggest that there is little or no support for the theory that digital screen use, on its own, is bad for young children’s psychological wellbeing.

‘If anything, our findings suggest the broader family context, how parents set rules about digital screen time, and if they’re actively engaged in exploring the digital world together, are more important than the raw screen time. Future research should focus on how using digital devices with parents or care-givers and turning it into a social time can effect children’s psychological wellbeing, curiosity, and the bonds with the caregiver involved.’


Cahill & McGill-Franzen on trans-literacy

Reading e-books promotes traditional literacy skills and is particularly supportive in the area of vocabulary development, and young children’s interaction with enhanced digital books also advances their facility to communicate and comprehend across modes and platforms, sometimes called trans-literacy development.


Burly Men at Sea review

I have nothing against stories you play, though they’re currently shelved with video games only because we privilege unreliable terms like “interactivity.” [...] in all cases they involved me watching some things happen, clicking a button, then watching some more things happen. [...] That’s put the burden of invention on audiovisual novelty.


Brunetti on photocopying

Making photocopies of our originals is quite instructional, because we get a clue as to how our work will look when reproduced and how to “size” our artwork by considering the final reproduction as we create our original. We may need to adjust and clarify our drawing if our lines do not reproduce as intended.

Avoid frills or unnecessary elaborate flourishes; simplify your range of gray tones. As Art Spiegelman wrote in Dead Dick, his Dick Tracy homage, “Never stipple when you can hatch. Better yet, use black.”


Brooks on daily goals

Take stock of long-term goals regularly, but not too often (for me, every six months does the trick); focus the rest of the time on what is to be done today that creates positive progress. Finish your work, set it aside, and relish the accomplishment. Then, start again tomorrow.


Brain metaphors

The process of adapting to new intellectual technologies is reflected in the changing metaphors we use to explain ourselves to ourselves. When the mechanical clock arrived, people began thinking of their brains as operating “like clockwork.” Today, in the age of software, we have come to think of them as operating “like computers.” But the changes, neuroscience tells us, go much deeper than metaphor. Thanks to our brain’s plasticity, the adaptation occurs also at a biological level.


Books as warmup

Readers can’t just read the words. They have to really think about them. Maybe take some notes. Discuss with others. Write an essay in response. Like a lecture, a book is a warmup for the thinking that happens later


Blogging with a small b

Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale. An attempt at genuine connection vs the gloss and polish and mass market of most “content marketing”.

And remember that you are your own audience! Small b blogging is writing things that you link back to and reference time and time again. Ideas that can evolve and grow as your thinking and audience grows.


Birkerts on the diminishment of literature

Writing in 1994, [Sven Birkerts] worried that distractedness and surficiality would win out. The “duration state” we enter through a turned page would be lost in a world of increasing speed and relentless connectivity, and with it our ability to make meaning out of narratives, both fictional and lived. The diminishment of literature—of sustained reading, of writing as the product of a single focused mind—would diminish the self in turn, rendering us less and less able to grasp both the breadth of our world and the depth of our own consciousness.


Big B blogging

But what is lost by following big B blogging? By chasing audience we lose the ability to be ourselves. By writing for everyone we write for no one. Too often I read things otherwise smart people have written for places like Fast Company and my eyes glaze over. Personal identity is necessarily watered down. Yes those places have large audiences but they’re shallow audiences. They don’t care about you at all. Your writing washes through their feeds like water.

Instead - I think most people would be better served by subscribing to small b blogging. What you want is something with YOUR personality. Writing and ideas that are addressable (i.e. you can find and link to them easily in the future) and archived (i.e. you have a list of things you’ve written all in one place rather than spread across publications and URLs) and memorable (i.e. has your own design, logo or style). Writing that can live and breathe in small networks. Scale be damned.

When you write for someone else’s publication your writing becomes disparate and UN-networked. By chasing scale and pageviews you lose identity and the ability to create meaningful, memorable connections within the network.


Amateur research librarians

[...] Myspace. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest, of all things. Today these social publishing tools are beginning to buck reverse chronological sort; they’re introducing algorithm sort, to surface content not by time posted but by popularity, or expected interactions, based on individual and group history. There is even less control than ever before.

[...]

There are no more amateur research librarians.


All the pleasure, none of the work

Future You Masturbation gives you the pleasure of all your future accomplishments with none of the work. It’s your brain tricking you into something that feels good today in exchange for lost meaning and purpose and accomplishment in the future.


Adler on reading

Reading a book should be a conversation between you and the author. Presumably, he knows more about the subject than you do; if not, you probably should not be bothering with his book. But understanding is a two-way operation; the learner has to question himself and question the teacher. He even has to be willing to argue with the teacher, once he understands what the teacher is saying. Marking a book is literally an expression of your differences or your agreements with the author. It is the highest respect you can pay him.


DHH on Effort

Effort is not accomplishment. If you repeat the same lesson a hundred times over, you’ll be left behind on the path to insight by the person who advances through a hundred different lessons.

[...]

So please, for fuck’s sake, the next time you reach for that tired “hard work” compliment, just stop and think: Why am I celebrating mere effort? Celebrate creativity, insights, breakthroughs, rebellions, anything but mere effort. Effort has gotten enough praise to last a century or two without another serving.