by Kenneth Goldsmith
Best book in years, and translated by my dear friend Prof. Dr. Swantje Lichtenstein. You can not affort to miss out on this one.
Via Brain Pickings: "Goldsmith echoes legendary designer Charles Eames, who famously advised to 'innovate only as a last resort,' and writes:
Having worked in advertising for many years as a ‘creative director,’ I can tell you that, despite what cultural pundits might say, creativity — as [it has] been defined by our culture with its endless parade of formulaic novels, memoirs, and films — is the thing to flee from, not only as a member of the ‘creative class’ but also as a member of the ‘artistic class.’ Living when technology is changing the rules of the game in every aspect of our lives, it’s time to question and tear down such clichés and lay them on the floor in front of us, then reconstruct these smoldering embers into something new, something contemporary, something — finally — relevant.
In addressing the most common contestations to his ideas about accepting all language as poetry by mere reframing — about what happens to the notion of authorship, about how careers and canons are to be established, about whether the heart of literature is reducible to mere algorithms — Goldsmith seconds a sentiment French polymath Henri Poincaré shared more then a century ago when he noted that to create is merely to choose wisely from the existing pool of ideas:
What becomes important is what you — the author — [decide] to choose. Success lies in knowing what to include and — more important — what to leave out. If all language can be transformed into poetry by mere reframing — an exciting possibility — then she who reframes words in the most charged and convincing way will be judged the best. I agree that the moment we throw judgment and quality out the window we’re in trouble. Democracy is fine for YouTube, but it’s generally a recipe for disaster when it comes to art. While all the words may be created equal — and thus treated — the way in which they’re assembled isn’t; it’s impossible to suspend judgment and folly to dismiss quality. Mimesis and replication [don’t] eradicate authorship, rather they simply place new demands on authors who must take these new conditions into account as part and parcel of the landscape when conceiving of a work of art: if you don’t want it copied, don’t put it online.
Ultimately, he argues that all of this is about the evolution — rather than the destruction — of authorship:
In 1959 the poet and artist Brion Gysin claimed that writing was fifty years behind painting. And he might still be right: in the art world, since impressionism, the avant-garde has been the mainstream. Innovation and risk taking have been consistently rewarded. But, in spite of the successes of modernism, literature has remained on two parallel tracks, the mainstream and the avant-garde, with the two rarely intersecting. Yet the conditions of digital culture have unexpectedly forced a collision, scrambling the once-sure footing of both camps. Suddenly, we all find ourselves in the same boat grappling with new questions concerning authorship, originality, and the way meaning is forged.
The rest of Uncreative Writing goes on to explore the history of appropriation in art, the emerging interchangeability between words and images in digital culture, the challenges of defining one’s identity in the vastness of the online environment, and many other pressing facets of what it means to be a writer — or, even more broadly, a creator — in the age of the internet."
by David Foster Wallace
Via Infinite Summer: "There’s no wrong way to read Infinite Jest: front-to-back, upside-down, cut in half, or skipping around. But here are a few tips for the Infinite Jester.
Read the endnotes: Please. They are not boring bibliographic details, but rather an integral part of the text. And the bouncing back-and-forth is a feature, not a bug.
Use bookmarks: Yes bookmarks, plural: one for the main text and one for the endnotes. Doing so will save you hours of searching, and the aggravation of losing your place several times an hour.
Persevere to page 200: There are several popular way stations on the road to abandoning Infinite Jest. The most heavily trafficked by far is The Wardine Section. Where the opening pages of IJ are among the best written in the book, page 37 (and many pages thereafter) are in a tortured, faux-Ebonics type dialect. 'Wardine say her momma ain’t treat her right.' 'Wardine be cry.' Potentially offensive (if one wants to be offended), and generally hard to get through. Hang in there, ignore the regional parlance, and focus on what the characters are doing. Like most things in the book, you’ll need to know this later. Likewise for the other rough patches to be found in the first fifth of the novel.
Trust the author: Around page 50, you’re going to feel a sinking sense of dread, as it dawns on you how much stuff you’ll be asked to keep track of: lots of characters coming and going, subplots upon subplots, page long sentences, and more. You have to believe that what seems at first like a bunch of disconnected vignettes (like The Wardine Section) will in fact come together; that the connections among what seem like radically disparate plot lines really do make themselves apparent in time. But at first, it requires something of a focus on the local plot lines, and a leap of faith in the fact that the global picture will eventually resolve.
Flag, copy, or bookmark page 223: Page 223 of the novel contains some information that you will either need to internalize or refer to frequently to make sense of the narrative. Once you reach it, flag the page with a stickie, dogear the corner, photocopy the material, stick a (third) bookmark there –whatever will ensure that you can find this information when you need it.
Don’t do the thing you’re dying to do right now: Namely, flip to page 223 to see what we’re talking about. David Foster Wallace ordered the book the way he did for a reason, and part of step 4 above is respecting that. In fact, we encourage you to take the fingers-in-the-ears 'LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU' approach to spoilers in general.
Abuse your copy: When you are finished, 223 should be just one of many mutilated pages in your novel. Liberal use of tape flags, post-it notes, highlighting, or your anal-retentive page marking device of choice, as a means of keeping track of key passages you think you might like to come back to (or share with others), is encouraged. (Note: the preceding advice is not recommended for those reading on the Kindle.) If you can’t bring yourself to work over your only copy of Infinite Jest, consider investing in a second.
Keep notes: As if lugging around a book the size of a 2 br. 1¼ bath apartment isn’t enough, you may want to carry a notebook as well. You won’t always have the requisite Oxford English Dictionary within arm’s reach, you know.
Brush up on your Hamlet: It’s no coincidence that the first two words of Hamlet are 'Who’s there?' and the first two words of Infinite Jest are 'I am'. Even the novel’s title was lifted from the play.
As you read, it behooves you keep in mind the relationships between the characters in Shakespeare’s drama (the ghost, poor Yorick, etc.) and the central themes of the play. You can find a brief primer here.
Employ a reader’s guide: There are two companion guides that you may find helpful. One is Stephen Burn’s David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest: A Reader’s Guide. Burn’s guide is rather short (96 pages), but it includes a helpful chronology, as well as sections on the novel’s critical reception and key plot points.
Another guide is Greg Carlisle’s Elegant Complexity: A Study of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. [Full disclosure: Bucher is the editor & publisher of the Carlisle book.] Elegant Complexity is different than the Burn guide in that it offers a summary and exegesis on every section of the novel –and that it’s 512 pages long. Also included are chronologies, family trees, thematic discussions, and a map of the tennis academy.
Use online references: There are copious webpages out there that the first-time Jesters will find useful. Here are a a few:
by Sam Harris
Via Brainpickings: "The human nervous system is plastic in a very important way — which means your experience of the world can be radically transformed. You are tending who you were yesterday by virtue of various habit patterns and physiological homeostasis and other things that are keeping you very recognizable to yourself, but it’s possible to have a very different experience… It’s possible to do it through a deliberate form of training, like meditation, and I think it’s crucial to do — because we all want to be as happy and as fulfilled and as free of pointless suffering as can possibly be. And all of our suffering, and all of our unhappiness, is a product of how our minds are in every moment. So if there’s a way to use the mind itself to improve one’s capacity for moment-to-moment wellbeing — which I’m convinced there is — then this should be potentially of interest to everybody. [...]
Waking Up, which you can sample further here, is a superb read in its entirety, quite possibly the best thing written on this ecosystem of spiritual subjects since Alan Watts’s treatise on the taboo against knowing who you really are."
Related: Introduction to Meditation: A Four-Part Series by Tara Brach
by Barry Long
"In the game of living, the rule is: everyone dies. You win by finding death before it finds you. The prize is life." Barry Long Seeing Through Death
"It is man’s world and he built it on the strength of sexual aggression. Male domination began in sex and in sex it continues unabated. Woman cannot alter this position by marching with banners or withdrawing from sex. She has tried all the means at her disposal down through the centuries; none has worked and none will. The solution is for her to be in command of love. That does not mean to be in command of the man. It means to know inside herself what is right and true and stick to that, even if it means the man leaves her. Woman is love. All she has to do is realise that, by giving up her self doubt and fear." Barry Long Making Love
by Sheryl Sandberg
Via Wikipedia: "Sheryl Sandberg released her first book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, co-authored by Nell Scovell and published by Knopf on March 11, 2013. Lean In is a book for professional women to help them achieve their career goals and for men who want to contribute to a more equitable society."
Via TIME: "In 2003, Columbia Business School professor Frank Flynn and New York University professor Cameron Anderson ran an experiment. They started with a Harvard Business School case study about a real-life entrepreneur named Heidi Roizen. It described how Roizen became a successful venture capitalist by using her 'outgoing personality … and vast personal and professional network … [which] included many of the most powerful business leaders in the technology sector.' Half the students in the experiment were assigned to read Heidi’s story. The other half got the same story with just one difference—the name was changed from Heidi to Howard.
When students were polled, they rated Heidi and Howard as equally competent. But Howard came across as a more appealing colleague. Heidi was seen as selfish and not 'the type of person you would want to hire or work for.' This experiment supports what research has already clearly shown: success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.
I believe this bias is at the very core of why women are held back. It is also at the very core of why women hold themselves back. When a woman excels at her job, both men and women will comment that she is accomplishing a lot but is 'not as well liked by her peers.' She is probably also too aggressive, 'not a team player', 'a bit political”; she 'can’t be trusted' or is 'difficult.' Those are all things that have been said about me and almost every senior woman I know.
The solution is making sure everyone is aware of the penalty women pay for success."
Sheryl Sandbergs TED talk: Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders
Thanks to Miriam Stein!
by Thaddeus Golas
Via The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment: "I am a lazy man. Laziness keeps me from believing that enlightenment demands effort, discipline, strict diet, non-smoking, and other evidences of virtue. That's about the worst heresy I could propose, but I have to be honest before I can be reverent. I am doing the work of writing this book to save myself the trouble of talking about it.
There is an odd chance that this is what someone needs to read in order to feel better about himself. If you are a kind person and want to know what to expect when enlightenment strikes and why it comes to you, with or without psychedelic help, this is for you.
These are the rules of the game as I see them. I realize that many of us are opening up very fast these days, and one of the most common delusions we face is the belief that our sense of revelation is unique. The feeling of knowing the truth is not enough. My intention is not to pretend final truth, but to suggest certain simple attitudes that will work for anybody and stay with you in the most extreme freak-out or space-out, even when your mind is completely blown. These attitudes are so simple that I'm surrounding them with a picture of the universe to show why they work even when you don't believe they will.
The universe is so vast and complex that if we needed books like this to become enlightened, we'd never make it. But on the other hand the universe is so simple in design that there's no reason for anyone to be puzzled or unhappy. It's easy to control your existence, no matter how complicated it looks. I've abandoned the idea of writing this a number of times, on the ground that people didn't know it because they didn't want to. But in the end there is no more reason for not writing it than there is for writing it.
I am writing what I will want to read someday when I am stuck in a weird place. Several times on bummers I've thought: What could I say to someone in this state of mind that would mean anything? That's the kind of testing this information has had. There isn't a line in this book that is there just because it sounds beautiful. The information is practical and reliable. It has taken me and others safely through some extreme states of mind, and can be reduced to a few phrases that are simple enough to recall in any crisis. [...]
Every person who allows others to treat him as a spiritual leader has the responsibility to ask himself: Out of all the perceptions available to me in the universe, why am I emphasizing the ignorance of my brothers? What am I doing in a role where this is real? What kind of standards am I conceiving, in which so many people are seen to be in suffering, while I am the enlightened one?
These questions came to me with a great shock, and this is one way I might answer for myself: Everything that is happening in your body is happening on an infinite range of vibration levels. If you love your lack of information better than I love this knowledge, then you are on a higher level than I. There is absolutely no external evidence that will tell me how much you love yourself, because I am seeing you with the limited vision of my own vibrations. In that sense, what I see is myself."
by John Gray
Via Dangerous Minds: "For the so-called New Atheists, on the other hands, nothing exists you can’t just slap a word on, so their disbelief is a matter of having the word God, but not having an entity to affix it to (they’ve looked everywhere). Gray suggests an altogether more elevated position: 'Atheism does not mean rejecting belief in God. It means giving up belief in language as anything other than a practical convenience. The world is not a creation of language, but something that – like the God of the negative theologians – escapes language. Atheism is only a stage on the way to a more far-reaching scepticism.' (...)
John Gray: 'I do think of The Silence of Animals as a successor to Straw Dogs, though that only became clear to me as I wrote the book. I began it as an exploration of secular myth, especially the variety in which meaning is embodied in cumulative advance in time, but it soon became an attempt to dig deeper into the themes of the earlier book—in particular the idea of contemplation. The chief difference between the two books, from my point of view, is that by presenting contemplation as correlative to a life of action. The Silence of Animals is more positive in tone.' "
by Hugh Raffles
Via Insectopedia: "A stunningly original exploration of the ties that bind us to the beautiful, ancient, astoundingly accomplished, largely unknown, and unfathomably different species with whom we share the world.
Organized alphabetically with one entry for each letter, weaving together brief vignettes, meditations, and extended essays, Insectopedia travels through history and science, anthropology and travel, economics, philosophy, and popular culture to show how insects have triggered our obsessions, stirred our passions, and beguiled our imaginations."
Thanks to Nicolas Langlitz!
by Ken Wilber
Via Shambhala Publications: "In a breathtaking trip from the Big Bang to the Postmodern world we inhabit, Ken Wilber examines the universe and our place in it—and comes up with an accessible and entertaining account of how it all fits together. Along the way he sheds light not only on the great cosmic questions but on various contentious issues of our day, such as environmental ethics, gender relations, multiculturalism, and even the meaning of the Internet. A Brief History of Everything is the perfect introduction to the great Integral thinker at his wise and witty best."
Thanks to Ralf Neubauer!
by Luigi Serafini
Via Wikipedia: "Codex Seraphinianus, originally published in 1981, is an illustrated encyclopedia of an imaginary world, created by the Italian artist, architect and industrial designer Luigi Serafini during thirty months, from 1976 to 1978. The book is approximately 360 pages long (depending on edition), and written in a strange, generally unintelligible alphabet.
Originally published in Italy, the book has since been released in a number of different countries.
The word Codex in the title means book (from Latin caudex), and Seraphinianus is derived from the author's last name, Serafini. (In Italian, serafini refers to the seraphs.)"
Via John Coulthart: "As Hofstadter says, the mind is indeed staggered when considering the labour that went into the creation of this work, particularly for something that, in its willful hermeticism, subscribes to the Brian Eno recipe for originality: Do something that’s so time-consuming or difficult that no one else would ever bother. If this makes it sound like a slightly more involved equivalent of those Guinness Record-competing constructions made of toothpicks, then the comparison is unfair. The Taj Mahal in matchsticks operates on something like the chimps-with-typewriters principle: any number of people, given enough time, application and boxes of Swan Vesta could do as much. The Codex Seraphinianus is rather more special than that. It may be a folly but, like all the best follies, it achieves its own aesthetic apotheosis through accumulation of detail, sheer inventiveness and the ultimate conviction of its own worth; like all the best follies it is also unique. It might even be argued that the Codex Seraphinianus is one of the purest works of fantasy, one that affects no compromise with supporting narrative or histrionic drama but aims straight for the gold."
by Alva Noë
Via Hill and Wang: "Our culture is obsessed with the brain—how it perceives; how it remembers; how it determines our intelligence, our morality, our likes and our dislikes. It’s widely believed that consciousness itself, that Holy Grail of science and philosophy, will soon be given a neural explanation. And yet, after decades of research, only one proposition about how the brain makes us conscious—how it gives rise to sensation, feeling, and subjectivity—has emerged unchallenged: we don’t have a clue.
In this inventive work, Noë suggests that rather than being something that happens inside us, consciousness is something we do. Debunking an outmoded philosophy that holds the scientific study of consciousness captive, Out of Our Heads is a fresh attempt at understanding our minds and how we interact with the world around us."
"As a neurologist, confronted every day by questions of mind, self, consciousness, and their basis, I find Alva Noë’s concepts—that consciousness is an organismic and not just a cerebral quality, that it is embodied in actions and not just isolated bits of brain—both astounding and convincing. Out of Our Heads is a book that should be read by everyone who thinks about thinking." —Oliver Sacks, Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center
Thanks to Constantin Rothkopf!
by Kay Kirchmann
Although out of print and therefore pretty expensive I highly recommend this book if you are interested in Stanley Kubrick's work. Couldn't stop reading until the last page. Excellent.
Only available in German.
Via Schnitt: "Kirchmann untersucht das Œuvre des Regisseurs vornehmlich anhand der Bedeutung von innerer Geschlossenheit der einzelnen Filme auf der einen Seite und ihrer gleichzeitigen Einbettung in einen weltanschaulichen Gesamtkontext auf der anderen. Gerade das Motiv des Sehens wird in Das Schweigen der Bilder zum Leitfaden, der sich durch das filmische Schaffen Kubricks spannt. Der Kanon der weiteren Motive, die Kirchmann in Kubricks Werk herausgreift, reicht von der Bedeutung der Symmetrie in Kubricks Bildsprache bis hin zu seiner Vorliebe für die Adaption literarischer Vorlagen. Hierbei gelingt es dem Autor aufzuzeigen, wie Kubrick sich literarische Texte zu eigen macht und sie zum elementaren Bestandteil jener zyklischen Struktur werden läßt, die das Gesamtwerk des Regisseurs letztendlich ausmacht."
Thanks to Phillip Schulze!
Two books on the science of color perception
Via brain pickings: "From the fine folks behind BBC’s excellent Horizon series — who have also pondered the nature of reality, the age-old tension between science and religion, how music works, what time is, and how money came to dominate the world — comes Do You See What I See, a fascinating look at the subjectivity and divergence of how we each see the world and the surprising power colors can have on our mood, cognition, emotion, and entire lives.
For more on the science of color perception, you won’t go wrong with Mark Changizi’s fantastic The Vision Revolution: How the Latest Research Overturns Everything We Thought We Knew about Human Vision and the out-of-print but excellent Color Perception: Philosophical, Psychological, Artistic, and Computational Perspectives from Oxford University Press."
by Daniel Gilbert
Via Daniel Gilbert: "The mistakes we make when we try to imagine our personal futures are also lawful, regular, and systematic. They too have a pattern that tells us about the powers and limits of foresight in much the same way that optical illusions tell us about the powers and limits of eyesight. That's what this book is all about. Despite the third word of the title, this is not an instruction manual that will tell you anything useful about how to be happy. Those books are located in the self-help section two aisles over, and once you've bought one, done everything it says to do, and found yourself miserable anyway, you can always come back here to understand why. Instead, this is a book that describes what science has to tell us about how and how well the human brain can imagine its own future, and about how and how well it can predict which of those futures it will most enjoy. This book is about a puzzle that many thinkers have pondered over the last two millennia, and it uses their ideas (and a few of my own) to explain why we seem to know so little about the hearts and minds of the people we are about to become. The story is a bit like a river that crosses borders without benefit of passport because no single science has ever produced a compelling solution to the puzzle. Weaving together facts and theories from psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, this book allows an account to emerge that I personally find convincing but whose merits you will have to judge for yourself."
The Manual by The KLF
Via Wikipedia: "The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way) is a 1988 book by The Timelords (Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty), better known as The KLF. It is a tongue-in-cheek step by step guide to achieving a No.1 single with no money or musical skills (...).
The advice dispensed by The Manual includes: 'Firstly, you must be skint and on the dole. Anybody with a proper job or tied up with full time education will not have the time to devote to see it through... Being on the dole gives you a clearer perspective on how much of society is run... having no money sharpens the wits. Forces you never to make the wrong decision. There is no safety net to catch you when you fall.' and 'If you are already a musician stop playing your instrument. Even better, sell the junk.' The book also foretells its own imminent irrelevance, The Timelords admitting that they are writing 'a book that will be completely redundant within twelve months. An obsolete artifact. Its only use being a bit of a social history that records the aspirations of a certain strata in British society in the late eighties...'"
Filed under: Reading
The New Typography and Pioneers of Modern Typography
Via Wikipedia: "Influenced (...) by Herbert Spencer's Pioneers of Modern Typography, Peter Saville was inspired by Jan Tschichold, chief propagandist for The New Typography."
Via University of California Press: "Since its initial publication in Berlin in 1928, Jan Tschichold's The New Typography has been recognized as the definitive treatise on book and graphic design in the machine age. (…)
'Probably the most important work on typography and graphic design in the twentieth century.'—Carl Zahn, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston"
Via Lund Humphries: "Modern typography does not have its origins in the conventional printing industry. Its roots are entwined with those of twentieth-century painting, poetry and architecture, and it flowered quite suddenly and dramatically in the twenty years following the publication of Marinetti's Futurist manifesto in 1909.
Since its first publication in 1969, and subsequent reissue in a completely revised edition, Pioneers of Modern Typography has remained the standard guide to the impact of twentieth-century avant-garde movements on graphic design and typography. (...)
Herbert Spencer's text examines what led up to the new concepts in graphic design and carefully disentangles the respective influences of Futurism, Dadaism, de Stijl, Suprematism, Constructivism and the Bauhaus. His text is profusely illustrated with examples of crucial contributions to the new typography - from Apollinaire to Zwart - and the book's documentation includes biographical notes on the key figures."
by Louis Bec (*1936) and Vilém Flusser (1920-1991)
Via Amazon: "'Science is interesting precisely because it relates to me. It is a human function just as much as breathing is: it is an existential interest. And an entirely objective science would be uninteresting, inhuman. The search for scientific objectivity is revealing itself in its continual advancement not as a search for purity, but as pernicious madness. The present essay demands that we give up the ideal of objectivity in favour of other intersubjective scientific methods.'
'De te fabula narratur'. Thus starts this paranaturalist treatise by Vilém Flusser. (...) Flusser introduces us here to an infernal creature from the oceanic abysses, our long lost relative, who slowly emerges, not from the oceans, but from our own depths to gaze spitefully into our eyes and reflect back at us our own existence.
Originally published only in German in 1987, this version has been edited and translated by Rodrigo Maltez Novaes, Ph.D. candidate at the European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Siegfried Zielinski, from the original, unpublished and extended Brazilian-Portuguese version of the manuscript recently found at the Vilém Flusser Archive at the Universität der Kunst, Berlin."
Via MediaArtNet: "For several decades, Bec’s artistic work has revolved around the interlocking of art and science. He became known through his efforts related to extending biological evolution and simulating new life forms, emphasizing in particular how these ‹could› bring forth evolution. His search for new zoomorphic types and forms of communication between artificial and natural species led to his founding a fictitious institute named Scientifique de Recherche Paranaturaliste, with Louis Bec as its presiding director. Bec was first introduced to artistic research on artificial life through his collaborating with the philosopher Vilém Flusser, who wrote about Bec’s Vampyroteuthis infernalis in his book of the same name."
Read it almost two decades ago and have been reminded of it today. Totally recommended.
Thanks to Katharina Hauke!
Filed under: Reading
by Naomi Kuno
Via HarperCollins Publishers: "Colours convey a wide spectrum of emotions and a variety of messages. The multitude of colour names alone - just look at any retail catalogue - are testimony to our sensibilities and imagination. A treasure trove of evocative colours and colour combinations, Colourscape is a handy reference for those looking for ideas. The unique chapter headings are: Colours of the Countries of the World; Colours of History, Ideology, Religion, and Mythology; Colours of Literature, Art, Music, and Handicraft; Colours of Celestial Bodies, Nature, and Meteorology; Colours of Flora and Fauna; and, Colours of Daily Life. Each chapter has a section within that contain a sample photographic image and a selection of colours relating thematically. For example, the colours in the France section include Paris Pink, French Mauve, and Versailles (all actual colour names!). Each colour is accompanied by a brief description with a visual cue (Bleu France, for example, is the exact shade of blue used in the French flag) as well as a list of evocative words associated with that hue (Light Paris Green: Refreshing, Invigorating, Healthy).
This innovative approach enables the reader to understand colours on a verbal as well as visual level. The meanings, images, and stories behind a myriad of colours is sure to provide endless creative inspiration. Colorscape includes information on colour formulas for the internet as well as print (RBG/CMYK). A colour index is provided at the end of the book, in which the 658 colours are collected in 11 genealogical colour groups (Pink Group, Red Group), as well as a keyword index, making it possible to search for specific colours in a variety of ways."
Thanks to Manu Burghart!
by William Gibson (*1948)
Via Wikipedia: "Set in August and September 2002, the story follows Cayce Pollard, a 32-year-old marketing consultant who has a psychological sensitivity to corporate symbols. The action takes place in London, Tokyo, and Moscow as Cayce judges the effectiveness of a proposed corporate symbol and is hired to seek the creators of film clips anonymously posted to the internet.
The novel's central theme involves the examination of the human desire to detect patterns or meaning and the risks of finding patterns in meaningless data. Other themes include methods of interpretation of history, cultural familiarity with brand names, and tensions between art and commercialization. The September 11, 2001 attacks are used as a motif representing the transition to the new century. Critics identify influences in Pattern Recognition from Thomas Pynchon's post-structuralist detective story The Crying of Lot 49."
Via Wikipedia: "Pattern recognition algorithms generally aim to provide a reasonable answer for all possible inputs and to do fuzzy matching of inputs. This is opposed to pattern matching algorithms, which look for exact matches in the input with pre-existing patterns. A common example of a pattern-matching algorithm is regular expression matching, which looks for patterns of a given sort in textual data and is included in the search capabilities of many text editors and word processors. In contrast to pattern recognition, pattern matching is generally not considered a type of machine learning, although pattern-matching algorithms (especially with fairly general, carefully tailored patterns) can sometimes succeed in providing similar-quality output to the sort provided by pattern-recognition algorithms.
Pattern recognition is studied in many fields, including psychology, psychiatry, ethology, cognitive science and computer science."
by Robert Shea (1933–1994) and Robert Anton Wilson (1932–2007)
Via Wikipedia: "Every view of reality that is introduced in the story is later derided in some way, whether that view is traditional or iconoclastic. The trilogy is an exercise in cognitive dissonance, with an absurdist plot built of seemingly plausible, if unprovable, components. Ultimately, readers are left to form their own interpretations as to which, if any, of the numerous contradictory viewpoints presented by the characters are valid or plausible, and which are simply satirical gags and shaggy dog jokes. This style of building up a viable belief system, then tearing it down to replace it with another one, was described by Wilson as guerrilla ontology."
by Stéphane Hessel (*1917)
Via Quartet Books: "Like a song you hum or a film you recommend to friends, Indignez-Vous! crystallises the spirit of the time. To buy it is a militant act, a gesture towards community and participation in a collective emotion. –Libération
The book urges the French, and everyone else, to recapture the wartime spirit of resistance to the Nazis by rejecting the insolent, selfish power of money and markets and by defending the social values of modern democracy. –Independent
Indignez-Vous! is creating the sort of stir in France Emile Zola did in 1898, when he published J’Accuse! –The National Post
Stéphane Hessel, Resistance fighter and concentration camp survivor, tells the young of today that their lives and liberties are worth fighting for.
Remembering the ideals for which he risked his life, while never forgetting the evils against which he struggled, the now 94-year-old writer and diplomat calls on all of us to take back the rights that have slowly slipped away since the Second World War ended."
Thanks to Manu Burghart!
by Derren Brown
Via Amazon: "Derren Brown's television and stage performances have entranced and dumbfounded millions. His baffling illusions and stunning set pieces – such as The Seance, Russian Roulette and The Heist - have set new standards of what's possible, as well as causing more than their fair share of controversy. Now, for the first time, he reveals the secrets behind his craft, what makes him tick and just why he grew that beard. Tricks of the Mind takes you on a journey into the structure and pyschology of magic. Derren teaches you how to read clues in people's behaviour and spot liars. He discusses the whys and wherefores of hypnosis and shows how to do it. And he investigates the power of suggestion and how you can massively improve your memory. He also takes a long hard look at the paranormal industry and why some of us feel the need to believe in it in the first place. Alternately hilarious, controversial and challenging, Tricks of the Mind is essential reading for Derren's legions of fans, and pretty bloody irresistible even if you don't like him that much..."
by Thomas Metzinger
Via Basic Books: "We're used to thinking about the self as an independent entity, something that we either have or are. In The Ego Tunnel, philosopher Thomas Metzinger claims otherwise: No such thing as a self exists. The conscious self is the content of a model created by our brain—an internal image, but one we cannot experience as an image. Everything we experience is 'a virtual self in a virtual reality.' But if the self is not real, why and how did it evolve? How does the brain construct it? Do we still have souls, free will, personal autonomy, or moral accountability? In a time when the science of cognition is becoming as controversial as evolution, The Ego Tunnel provides a stunningly original take on the mystery of the mind."
Edited by Jeffrey K. Zeig
From Amazon: "This book is a direct transcript of a week long hypnosis/ psychotherapy seminar performed by Milton H. Erickson at the end of his life, and at the height of his expertise. It reads with the hypnotic fluidity of a good novel while teaching a tremendous amount – about many things. Erickson weaves his way through various teaching tales while interacting with people in the seminar."
If you are interested in unconscious learning this book is a must read.
Thanks to Tristan Thönnissen!
by Ray Carney
From Wikipedia: "Cassavetes is the subject of several books about the actor/filmmakers life. Cassavetes on Cassavetes is a collection of interviews collected or conducted by Boston University film scholar Ray Carney, in which the late filmmaker recalls his experiences, influences and outlook in the film industry. In the Oscar 2005 edition of Vanity Fair magazine, one article features a tribute to Cassavetes by three members of his stock company: Gena Rowlands, and actors Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk."
From Faber and Faber: "Professor Ray Carney, a friend and admirer of Cassavetes, presents a book that offers us Cassavetes in his own words - frank, uncompromising, humane, and passionate about both life and art."
Visualising Information in Graphic Design
From Gestalten: "The application of diagrams extends beyond its classical field of use today. Data Flow charts this development, introduces the expansive scope of innovatively designed diagrams and presents an abundant range of possibilities in visualising data and information. These range from chart-like diagrams such as bar, plot, line diagrams and spider charts, graph-based diagrams including line, matrix, process flow, and molecular diagrams to extremely complex three-dimensional diagrams. Data Flow is an up-to-date survey providing cutting-edge aesthetics and inspirational solutions for designers, and at the same time unlocks a new field of visual codes..."
by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou
Am currently enjoying the wonderful Logicomix book and totally recommend it.
From the Logicomix website: "Covering a span of sixty years, the graphic novel Logicomix was inspired by the epic story of the quest for the Foundations of Mathematics.
This was a heroic intellectual adventure most of whose protagonists paid the price of knowledge with extreme personal suffering and even insanity. The book tells its tale in an engaging way, at the same time complex and accessible. It grounds the philosophical struggles on the undercurrent of personal emotional turmoil, as well as the momentous historical events and ideological battles which gave rise to them.
The role of narrator is given to the most eloquent and spirited of the story's protagonists, the great logician, philosopher and pacifist Bertrand Russell. It is through his eyes that the plights of such great thinkers as Frege, Hilbert, Poincaré, Wittgenstein and Gödel come to life, and through his own passionate involvement in the quest that the various narrative strands come together."
by Clarissa Pinkola Estés (*1945)
Women Who Run With the Wolves is a book that was scarcely reviewed after publication but has become a best-seller. I read it despite its self-help book cover and weird sounding abstracts. Just because a male (!) friend recommended it strongly. It is absolutely not what you would expect reading the descriptions on the back of the book. Instead it is hortatory, ecstatic, and, ultimately, irritating.
From New York Times: "In the book, Dr. Estes has interpreted old tales in ways that merge Carlos Castaneda with Bruno Bettelheim, from Bluebeard to the Little Match Girl, that reveal an archetypal wild woman whose qualities she says have today been dangerously tamed by a society that preaches the virtue of being nice."
»If you have never been called a defiant, incorrigible, impossible woman… have faith… there is yet time.«
by Jacques Rancière (*1940)
From goodreads: "In his book The Ignorant Schoolmaster, Jacques Ranciere reads the work of a 19th century French teacher, Jacotot. Jacotot ended up having Flemish students with whom he could not adequately communicate, as they did not speak French and he did not speak Flemish. In order to instruct them in French, he had them each get a copy of Telemachus in Flemish and in French. He had them read the book in their own language until it was very familiar. Then he had them read the book in French and compare the two, slowly, painstakingly. Over time, the students learned French. Reflecting on this, Jacotot decided that while the students had learned, it was not clear if or how he had taught them. His own knowledge of French had not been transmitted to the students, or even been relevant to the students' learning. If the students had learned without Jacotot's knowledge entering into play, then didn't this mean that one did not have to know to teach? As an experiment, he undertook to teach painting and piano, which he did not know. And his students learned painting and piano.
Jacotot called this method universal teaching. From this experience, he derived a proposition by turns startling and simple: intelligence does not admit of differences of quantity. Everyone is as intelligent as everyone else. Application or access to intelligence is a matter of will. Learning then is an act of will, and the training and strengthening of will. In other words, learning is emancipation, at least when it occurs via universal teaching."
(Thanks to Julian Rohrhuber!)
by Josef Müller-Brockmann (1914-1996)
All about the underlying craftsmanship in graphic design. Grid systems are totally underestimated. A wonderful book and a classic.
From Amazon: "The development of organisational systems in visual communication was the service and the accomplishment of the representatives of simple and functional typography and graphic design. In the 1920s in Europe, works already arose in the areas of typography, graphic design and photography with objectified conception and rigid composition. In 1961 a brief presentation of the grid with text and illustrations appeared for the first time in an earlier book by the author."
by Slavoj Žižek (*1949)
From Amazon: "The title is just the first of many startling asides, observations and insights that fill this guide to Hollywood on the Lacanian psychoanalyst's couch - a thrilling guide to cinema and psychoanalysis from the last giant of cultural theory in the twenty-first century."
Also highly recommended: THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA.
by Milton H. Erickson (1901-1980) and Sidney Rosen
From Wikipedia: Milton H. Erickson "developed an extensive use of therapeutic metaphor and story as well as hypnosis and coined the term Brief Therapy for his approach of addressing therapeutic changes in relatively few sessions. (...) Through conceptualizing the unconscious as highly separate from the conscious mind, with its own awareness, interests, responses, and learnings, he taught that the unconscious mind was creative, solution-generating, and often positive."
Free online version here.
by John Gray (*1948)
From Wikipedia: "Gray contributes regularly to The Guardian, New Statesman, and The Times Literary Supplement, and has written several influential books on political theory, including Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (2003), an attack on humanism, a worldview which he sees as originating in religious ideologies. Gray sees volition, and hence morality, as an illusion, and portrays humanity as a ravenous species engaged in wiping out other forms of life."
by Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)
From Wikipedia: "Campbell explores the theory that important myths from around the world which have survived for thousands of years all share a fundamental structure, which Campbell called the monomyth. (...) While Campbell offers a discussion of the hero's journey by using the Freudian concepts popular in the 1940s and 1950s, the monomythic structure is not tied to these concepts. Similarly, Campbell uses a mixture of Jungian archetypes, unconscious forces, and Arnold van Gennep's structuring of rites of passage rituals to provide some illumination. However, this pattern of the hero's journey influences artists and intellectuals worldwide, suggesting a basic usefulness for Campbell's insights not tied to academic categories and mid-20th century forms of analysis."
If you can get a hold of Joseph Campbell's lecture series Transformation of myth through time is also a life changing experience.
by David Ogilvy (1911-1999)
From Wikipedia: "Ogilvy's advertising mantra followed these four basic principles.
> Research: Coming, as he did, from a background in research, he never underestimated its importance in advertising. In fact, in 1952, when he opened his own agency, he billed himself as Research Director.
> Professional discipline: "I prefer the discipline of knowledge to the chaos of ignorance." He codified knowledge into slide and film presentations he called Magic Lanterns. He also instituted several training programs for young advertising professionals.
> Creative brilliance: A strong emphasis on the "BIG IDEA."
> Results for clients: "In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create."
by Fritz Perls (1893-1970)
From Amazon: "Compiled and edited from transcriptions of three workshop/demonstrations that took place at the Esalen Institute in 1968, the first section of this book includes four lectures wherein Perls presents a clear explanation in simple terms of the basic ideas he believed underlie the philosophy and methodology of Gestalt therapy. The lectures are followed by verbatim transcripts of work Perls did with workshop participants."
by Timothy Leary (1920-1996)
Leary's death was videotaped for posterity at his request, capturing his final words. During his final moments, he said, "Why not?" to his son Zachary. He uttered the phrase repeatedly, in different intonations, and died soon after. His last word, according to Zachary Leary, was "beautiful". - At the end of this year it only seems appropriate to remember Timothy Leary (1920-1996), writer, psychologist, futurist, and advocate of psychedelic drug research and use: The wonderful archive.org's new Timothy Leary video archive has currently over 80 videos. Have a look and get lost.
A play by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)
From Wikipedia: "The play starts out seeming to be a light satire of the traditional British drawing room comedy. As it progresses, however, the work becomes a darker philosophical treatment of human relations. As in many of Eliot's works, the play uses absurdist elements to expose the isolation of the human condition."
by Robert Cialdini (*1945)
Was in Basel for a five-days-workshop with a dozen of highly motivated students at FHNW's Hyperwerk. As always in the context of design the question of motivation and manipulation came up. Which reminded me of two things: The book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" by Robert Cialdini (Thank you, William!) and the fast-paced TED talk "Why we do what we do, and how we can do it better" by Tony Robbins.
by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin, Robert B. Cialdini
From Amazon: "Goldstein, Martin and Cialdini meld social psychology, pop culture and field research to demonstrate how the subtle addition, subtraction or substitution of a word, phrase, symbol or gesture can significantly influence consumer behavior. Interspersing references to Britney Spears, the Smurfs and Sex and the City with more academic concepts such as loss aversion and the scarcity principle, the authors illustrate the simple and surprising approaches that can hone a company's marketing strategies."
by Michael Bierut (*1957)
Got this wonderful book as a present and wanted to send one of the essays ("My Phone Call to Arnold Newman") to my students. That is how I learned about Michael Bierut's excellent blog Design Observer. Go check it out and also see him in the enjoyable documentary Helvetica about THE most common typeface of our times.
by Jeffrey Gray (1934-2004)
My friend Constantin Rothkopf recommended this book on what is commonly known as the Hard Problem of consciousness. I spent two weeks looking at beautiful Bellagio and the ever-changing light on Lago di Como, reading this accessible and compelling analysis of how conscious experience relates to brain and behaviour. Totally recommended.
by Keith Johnstone (*1933)
One of those very few books that can change how you work in fundamental ways... Brilliantly funny, thoughtful and perceptive. Highly practical in its sections on mask, narratives, spontaneity, and improvisation; subversive and constructive at the same time. Thanks for this recommendation, William!