10.11.2018

john cleese on creativity [transcript]

[Grosvenor House Hotel, London. 23rd January 1991]

You know, when Video Arts asked me if I'd like to talk about creativity I said "no problem!" No problem! Because telling people how to be creative is easy, it's only being it that's difficult.

I knew it would be particularly easy for me because I've spent the last 25 years watching how various creative people produce their stuff, and being fascinating to see if I could figure out what makes folk, including me, more creative.

What is more, a couple of years ago I got very excited because a friend of mine who runs the psychology department at Sussex University, Brian Bates, showed me some research on creativity done at Berkley in the 70s by a brilliant psychologist called Donald MacKinnon which seemed to confirm in the most impressively scientific way all the vague observations and intuitions that I'd had over the years.

The prospect of settling down for quite serious study of creativity for the purpose of tonight's gossip was delightful. Having spent several weeks on it, I can state categorically that what I have to tell you tonight about how you can all become more creative is a complete waste of time.

So I think it would be much better if I just told jokes instead.

You know the lightbulb jokes? How many Poles does it take to screw in a lightbulb? One to hold the bulb, four to turn the table. How many folksingers does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: five, one to change the bulb and four to sing about how much better the old one was. How many socialists does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: We're not going to change it, we think it works. How many creative art--

The reason why it is futile for me to talk about creativity is that it simply cannot be explained, it's like Mozart's music or Van Gogh's painting or Saddam Hussein's propaganda. It is literally inexplicable.

Freud, who analyzed practically everything else, repeatedly denied that psychoanalysis could shed any light whatsoever on the mysteries of creativity.

And Brian Bates wrote to me recently "Most of the best research on creativity was done in the 60s and 70s with a quite dramatic drop-off in quantity after then," largely, I suspect because researchers began to feel that they had reached the limits of what science could discover about it.

In fact, the only thing from the research that I could tell you about how to be creative is the sort of childhood that you should have had, which is of limited help to you at this point in your lives.

However there is one negative thing that I can say, and it's "negative" because it is easier to say what creativity isn't.

A bit like the sculptor who when asked how he had sculpted a very fine elephant, explained that he'd taken a big block of marble and then knocked away all the bits that didn't look like an elephant.

Now here's the negative thing: Creativity is not a talent. It is not a talent, it is a way of operating.


So how many actors does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Answer: thousands. Only one to do it but thousands to say "I could have done that." How many Jewish mothers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Answer: Don't mind me, I'll just sit here in the dark, nobody cares about… {mumble} How many surgeons --
You see when I say "a way of operating" what I mean is this: creativity is not an ability that you either have or do not have.

It is, for example, (and this may surprise you) absolutely unrelated to IQ (provided that you are intelligent above a certain minimal level that is) but MacKinnon showed in investigating scientists, architects, engineers, and writers that those regarded by their peers as "most creative" were in no way whatsoever different in IQ from their less creative colleagues.

So in what way were they different?

MacKinnon showed that the most creative had simply acquired a facility for getting themselves into a particular mood -- "a way of operating" -- which allowed their natural creativity to function.

In fact, MacKinnon described this particular facility as an ability to play.

Indeed he described the most creative (when in this mood) as being childlike. For they were able to play with ideas… to explore them… not for any immediate practical purpose but just for enjoyment. Play for its own sake.

Now, about this mood.

I'm working at the moment with Dr. Robin Skynner3 on a successorto our psychiatry book Families and How To Survive Them we're comparing the ways in which psychologically healthy families function (the ways in which such families function) with the ways in which the most successful corporations and organizations function.

We've become fascinated by the fact that we can usually describe the way in which people function at work in terms of two modes: open and closed.

So what i can just add now is that creativity is not possible in the closed mode.

Ok, so how many American network TV executives does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Answer: Does it have to be a lightbulb? How many doorke--

Let me explain a little. By the "closed mode" I mean the mode that we are in most of the time when {we are} at work.

We have inside us a feeling that there's lots to be done and we have to get on with it if we're going to get through it all.


It's an active (probably slightly anxious) mode, although the anxiety can be exciting and pleasurable.

It's a mode which we're probably a little impatient, if only with ourselves.

It has a little tension in it, not much humor.

It's a mode in which we're very purposeful, and it's a mode in which we can get very stressed and even a bit manic, but not creative.

By contrast, the open mode, is relaxed… expansive… less purposeful mode… in which we're probably more contemplative, more inclined to humor (which always accompanies a wider perspective) and, consequently, more playful.

It's a mood in which curiosity for its own sake can operate because we're not under pressure to get a specific thing done quickly. We can play, and that is what allows our natural creativity to surface.

Let me give you and example of what I mean.

When Alexander Fleming had the thought that led to the discovery of penicillin, he must have been in the open mode.

The previous day, he'd arranged a number of dishes so that culture would grow upon them.

On the day in question, he glanced at the dishes, and he discovered that on one of them no culture had appeared.

Now, if he'd been in the closed mode he would have been so focused upon his need for "dishes with cultures grown upon them"that when he saw that one dish was of no use to him for that purpose he would quite simply have thrown it away.

Thank goodness, he was in the open mode so he became curious about why the culture had not grown on this particular dish. And that curiosity, as the world knows, led him to the lightbulb --- I'm sorry, to penicillin.

Now in the closed mode an uncultured dish is an irrelevance. In the open mode, it's a clue.


Now, one more example: one of Alfred Hitchcock's regular co-writers has described working with him on screenplays.

He says, "When we came up against a block and our discussions became very heated and intense, Hitchcock would suddenly stop and tell a story that had nothing to do with the work at hand. At first, I was almost outraged, and then I discovered that he did this intentionally. He mistrusted working under pressure. He would say "We're pressing, we're pressing, we're working too hard. Relax, it will come." And, says the writer, of course it finally always did. We need both modes.

But let me make one thing quite clear: we need to be in the open mode when we're pondering a problem but once we come up with a solution, we must then switch to the closed mode to implement it. Because once we've made a decision, we are efficient only if we go through with it decisively, undistracted by doubts about its correctness.

For example, if you decide to leap a ravine, the moment just before take-off is a bad time to start reviewing alternative strategies. When you're attacking a machine-gun post you should not make a particular effort to see the funny side of what you are doing.

Humor is a natural concomitant in the open mode, but it's a luxury in the closed {mode}.

No, once we've taken a decision we should narrow our focus while we're implementing it, and then after it's been carried out we should once again switch back to the open mode to review the feedback rising from our action, in order to decide whether the course that we have taken is successful, or whether we should continue with the next stage of our plan. Whether we should create an alternative plan to correct any error we perceive.

And then back into the closed mode to implement that next stage, and so on.

In other words, to be at our most efficient we need to be able to switch backwards and forwards between the two modes.
We often get stuck in one mode.

But here's the problem: we too often get stuck in the closed mode.

Under the pressures which are all too familiar to us we tend to maintain tunnel vision at times when we really need to step back and contemplate the wider view.

This is particularly true, for example, of politicians. The main complaint about them from their non-political colleagues is that they become so addicted to the adrenaline that they get from reacting to events on an hour-by-hour basis that they almost completely lose the desire or the ability to ponder problems in the open mode.

So, as I say, creativity is not possible in the closed mode.

And that's it. Well… 20 minutes to go… So, how many women's libbers does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: 37, one to screw it in, and 36 to make a documentary about it. How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? The answer: only one, but the lightbulb has really got to want to change.

Oh, there is one, just one, other thing that I can say about creativity.

There are certain conditions which do make it more likely that you'll get into the open mode, and that something creative will occur.

More likely… you can't guarantee anything will occur. You might sit around for hours as I did last Tuesday, and nothing.

Zilch.

Bupkis.

Not a sausage.

Nevertheless I can at least tell you how to get yourselves into the open mode. You need five things:

Space
Time
Time
Confidence
A 22 inch waist

Sorry, my mind was wandering. I'm getting into the open mode too quickly. Instead of a 22 inch waist, you need humor. I do beg your pardon.

Let's take space first: you can't become playful and therefore creative if you're under your usual pressures, because to cope with them you've got to be in the closed mode.

So you have to create some space for yourself away from those demands. And that means sealing yourself off.

You must make a quiet space for yourself where you will be undisturbed.

Next: Time. It's not enough to create space, you have to create your space for a specific period of time. You have to know that your space will last until exactly (say) 3:30, and that at that moment your normal life will start again.

And it's only by having a specific moment when your space starts and an equally specific moment when your space stops that you can seal yourself off from the every day closed mode in which we all habitually operate.

And I'd never realized how vital this was until I read a historical study of play by a Dutch historian called Johan Huizinga and in it he says "Play is distinct from ordinary life, both as to locality and duration. This is its main characteristic: its secludedness, its limitedness. Play begins and then (at a certain moment) it is over. Otherwise, it's not play."

So combining the first two factors we create an "oasis of quiet" for ourselves by setting the boundaries of space and of time.

Now creativity can happen, because play is possible when we are separate from everyday life.

So, you've arranged to take no calls, you've closed your door, you've sat down somewhere comfortable, take a couple of deep breaths and if you're anything like me, after you've pondered some problem that you want to turn into an opportunity for about 90 seconds, you find yourself thinking "Oh I forgot I've got to call Jim… oh, and I must tell Tina that I need the report on Wednesday and not Thursday which means I must move my lunch with Joe and Damn! I haven't called St. Paul's about getting Joe's daughter an interview and I must pop out this afternoon to get Will's birthday present and those plants need watering and none of my pencils are sharpened and Right! I've got too much to do, so I'm going to start by sorting out my paper clips and then I shall make 27 phone calls and I'll do some thinking tomorrow when I've got everything out of the way."

Because, as we all know, it's easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking.

And it's also easier to do little things we know we can do, than to start on big things that we're not so sure about.

So when I say create an oasis of quiet know that when you have, your mind will pretty soon start racing again. But you're not going to take that very seriously, you just sit there (for a bit) tolerating the racing and the slight anxiety that comes with that, and after a time your mind will quiet down again.

Now, because it takes some time for your mind to quiet down it's absolutely no use arranging a "space/time oasis" lasting 30 minutes, because just as you're getting quieter and getting into the open mode you have to stop and that is very deeply frustrating. So you must allow yourself a good chunk of time. I'd suggest about an hour and a half. Then after you've gotten to the open mode, you'll have about an hour left for something to happen, if you're lucky.

But don't put a whole morning aside. My experience is that after about an hour-and-a-half you need a break. So it's far better to do an hour-and-a-half now and then an hour-and-a-half next Thursday and maybe an hour-and-a-half the week after that, than to fix one four-and-a-half hour session now.

There's another reason for that, and that's factor number three: time.

Yes, I know we've just done time, but that was half of creating our oasis.

Now I'm going to tell you about how to use the oasis that you've created.

Why do you still need time?

Well, let me tell you a story. I was always intrigued that one of my Monty Python colleagues who seemed to be (to me) more talented than I was {but} did never produce scripts as original as mine. And I watched for some time and then I began to see why. If he was faced with a problem, and fairly soon saw a solution, he was inclined to take it. Even though (I think) he knew the solution was not very original.

Whereas if I was in the same situation, although I was sorely tempted to take the easy way out, and finish by 5 o'clock, I just couldn't. I'd sit there with the problem for another hour-and-a-quarter, and by sticking at it would, in the end, almost always come up with something more original.

It was that simple.

My work was more creative than his simply because I was prepared to stick with the problem longer.

So imagine my excitement when I found that this was exactly what MacKinnon found in his research. He discovered that the most creative professionals always played with a problem for much longer before they tried to resolve it, because they were prepared to tolerate that slight discomfort and anxiety that we all experience when we haven't solved a problem.

You know I mean, if we have a problem and we need to solve it, until we do, we feel (inside us) a kind of internal agitation, a tension, or an uncertainty that makes us just plain uncomfortable. And we want to get rid of that discomfort. So, in order to do so, we take a decision. Not because we're sure it's the best decision, but because taking it will make us feel better.

Well, the most creative people have learned to tolerate that discomfort for much longer. And so, just because they put in more pondering time, their solutions are more creative.

Now the people I find it hardest to be creative with are people who need all the time to project an image of themselves as decisive.

And who feel that to create this image they need to decide everything very quickly and with a great show of confidence.

Well, this behavior I suggest sincerely, is the most effective way of strangling creativity at birth.

But please note I'm not arguing against real decisiveness. I'm 100% in favor of taking a decision when it has to be taken and then sticking to it while it is being implemented.

What I am suggesting to you is that before you take a decision, you should always ask yourself the question, "When does this decision have to be taken?" And having answered that, you defer the decision until then, in order to give yourself maximum pondering time, which will lead you to the most creative solution.

And if, while you're pondering, somebody accuses you of indecision say, "Look, Babycakes, I don't have to decide 'til Tuesday, and I'm not chickening out of my creative discomfort by taking a snap decision before then, that's too easy."

So, to summarize: the third factor that facilitates creativity is time, giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original.

Now the next factor, number 4, is confidence.

When you are in your space/time oasis, getting into the open mode, nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.

Now if you think about play, you'll see why. To play is experiment: "What happens if I do this? What would happen if we did that? What if…?"

The very essence of playfulness is an openness to anything that may happen. The feeling that whatever happens, it's ok. So you cannot be playful if you're frightened that moving in some direction will be "wrong" -- something you "shouldn't have done."

Well, you're either free to play, or you're not.

As Alan Watts puts it, you can't be spontaneous within reason.

So you've got to risk saying things that are silly and illogical and wrong, and the best way to get the confidence to do that is to know that while you're being creative, nothing is wrong. There's no such thing as a mistake, and any drivel may lead to the break-through.

And now, the last factor, the fifth: humor.

Well, I happen to think the main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.

I think we all know that laughter brings relaxation, and that humor makes us playful, yet how many times important discussions been held where really original and creative ideas were desperately needed to solve important problems, but where humor was taboo because the subject being discussed was {air quotes} "so serious"?

This attitude seems to me to stem from a very basic misunderstanding of the difference between 'serious' and 'solemn'.

Now I suggest to you that a group of us could be sitting around after dinner, discussing matters that were extremely serious like the education of our children, or our marriages, or the meaning of life (and I'm not talking about the film), and we could be laughing, and that would not make what we were discussing one bit less serious.

Solemnity, on the other hand… I don't know what it's for. I mean, what is the point of it? The two most beautiful memorial services that I've ever attended both had a lot of humor, and it somehow freed us all, and made the services inspiring and cathartic.

But solemnity? It serves pomposity, and the self-important always know with some level of their consciousness that their egotism is going to be punctured by humor -- that's why they see it as a threat. And so {they} dishonestly pretend that their deficiency makes their views more substantial, when it only makes them feel bigger.

{John blows "raspberries" with his tongue.}

No, humor is an essential part of spontaneity, an essential part of playfulness, an essential part of the creativity that we need to solve problems, no matter how 'serious' they may be.

So when you set up a space/time oasis, giggle all you want.

And there, ladies and gentlemen, are the five factors which you can arrange to make your lives more creative:

Space, time, time, confidence, and Lord Jeffrey Archer.

So, now you know how to get into the open mode, the only other requirement is that you keep mind gently 'round the subject you're pondering.

You'll daydream, of course, but you just keep bringing your mind back, just like with meditation. Because, and this is the extraordinary thing about creativity, if you just keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious, probably in the shower later. Or at breakfast the next morning, but suddenly you are rewarded, out of the blue a new thought mysteriously appears.

If you've put in the pondering time first.

So, how many Cecil Parkinsons does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: two, one to screw it in, one to screw it up. How many account executives does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Answer: Can I get back to you on that? How many Norwei--- Oh, sorry, how many Yugoslav--- how many Malt-- how many Dutch--- I'm out of jokes.

Oh! One thing! Looking at you all reminds me, I think it's easy to be creative if you've got other people to play with.

I always find that if two (or more) of us throw ideas backwards and forwards I get to more interesting and original places than I could have ever have gotten to on my own. But there is a danger, a real danger, if there's one person around you who makes you feel defensive, you lose the confidence to play, and it's goodbye creativity.

So always make sure your play friends are people that you like and trust.

And never say anything to squash them either, never say "no" or "wrong" or "I don't like that."

Always be positive, and build on what is being said:

"Would it be even better if…"

"I don't quite understand that, can you just explain it again?"

"Go on…"

"What if…?"

"Let's pretend…"

Try to establish as free an atmosphere as possible.

Sometimes I wonder if the success of the Japanese isn't partly due to their instinctive understanding of how to use groups creatively.

Westerners are often amazed at the unstructured nature of Japanese meetings but maybe it's just that very lack of structure, that absence of time pressure, that frees them to solve problems so creatively. And how clever of the Japanese sometimes to plan that un-structured-ness by, for example, insisting that the first people to give their views are the most junior, so that they can speak freely without the possibility of contradicting what's already been said by somebody more important. (29:00)

Four minutes left… How many Irish-- sorry, sorry

Creativity is when two frameworks come together to create new meaning

Well, look, the very last thing that I can say about creativity is this: it's like humor. In a joke, the laugh comes at a moment when you connect two different frameworks of reference in a new way.

Example: there's the old story about a woman doing a survey into sexual attitudes who stops an airline pilot and asks him, amongst other things, when he last had sexual intercourse. He replies "Nineteen fifty eight." Now, knowing airline pilots, the researcher is surprised, and queries this. "Well," says the pilot, "it's only twenty-one ten now."

We laugh, eventually, at the moment of contact between two frameworks of reference: the way we express what year it is and the 24-hour clock.

Now, having an idea, a new idea, is exactly the same thing. It's connecting two hitherto separate ideas in a way that generates new meaning.

Now, connecting different ideas isn't difficult, you can connect cheese with motorcycles or moral courage with light green, or bananas with international cooperation. You can get any computer to make a billion random connection for you, but these new connections or juxtapositions are significant only if they generate new meaning.

So as you play you can deliberately try inventing these random juxtapositions, and then use your intuition to tell you whether any of them seem to have significance for you. That's the bit the computer can't do. It can produce millions of new connections, but it can't tell which one smells interesting.

And, of course, you'll produce some juxtapositions which are absolutely ridiculous, absurd. Good for you!

Because Edward de Bono7 (who invented the notion of lateral thinking) specifically suggests in his book PO: Beyond Yes and No that you can try loosening up your assumptions by playing with deliberately crazy connections. He calls such absurd ideas "Intermediate Impossibles."

And he points out the use of an Intermediate Impossible is completely contrary to ordinary logical thinking in which you have to be right at each stage.

It doesn't matter if the Intermediate Impossible is right or absurd, it can nevertheless be used as a stepping stone to another idea that is right. Another example of how, when you're playing, nothing is wrong.

So, to summarize: if you really don't know how to start, or if you got stuck, start generating random connections, and allow your intuition to tell you if one might lead somewhere interesting.

Well, that really is all I can tell you that won't help you to be creative. Everything.

And now, in the two minutes left, I can come to the important part, and that is, how to stop your subordinates {from} becoming creative too, which is the real threat.

Because, believe me no one appreciates better than I do what trouble creative people are. And how they stop decisive, hard-nosed bastards like us from running businesses efficiently.

I mean, we all know, {if} we encourage someone to be creative, the next thing is they're rocking the boat, coming up with ideas, and asking us questions. Now if we don't nip this kind of thing in the bud, we'll have to start justifying our decisions by reasoned argument. And sharing information -- the concealment of which gives us considerable advantages in our power struggles.

So, here's how to stamp out creativity in the rest of the organization and get a bit of respect going.

One: Allow subordinates no humor, it threatens your self-importance and especially your omniscience. Treat all humor as frivolous or subversive.

Because subversive is, of course, what humor will be in your setup, as it's the only way that people can express their opposition, since (if they express it openly) you're down on them like a ton of bricks.

So let's get this clear: blame humor for the resistance that your way of working creates. Then you don't have to blame your way of working. This is important. And I mean that solemnly. Your dignity is no laughing matter.

Second: keeping ourselves feeling irreplaceable involves cutting everybody else down to size, so don't miss an opportunity to undermine your employees' confidence.

A perfect opportunity comes when you're reviewing work that they've done. Use your authority to zero in immediately on all the things you can find wrong. Never never balance the negatives with positives, only criticize, just as your school teachers did.

Always remember: praise makes people uppity.

Third: Demand that people should always be actively doing things. If you catch anyone pondering, accuse them of laziness and/or indecision. This is to starve employees of thinking time because that leads to creativity and insurrection. So demand urgency at all times, use lots of fighting talk and war analogies, and establish a permanent atmosphere of stress, of breathless anxiety, and crisis.

In a phrase: keep that mode closed.

In this way we no-nonsense types can be sure that the tiny, tiny, microscopic quantity of creativity in our organization will all be ours!

But! Let your vigilance slip for one moment, and you could find yourself surrounded by happy, enthusiastic, and creative people whom you might never be able to completely control ever again!

So be careful.

Thank you, and good night. Thank you.

2.13.2018

recently noted observations, including some of mine

"this has caused me the greatest trouble, and still causes me the greatest trouble: to realize that what things are called is unspeakably more important than what they are." -- Friedrich Nietzsche

there has not been a *single* good thing that followed the phrase “the trump administration” in any sentence. it’s like the world political equivalent of the black plague.

phrase of the day: “high velocity minimalism”

"In my office today I discussed smoking cessation, weight loss, exercise, and nutrition with various patients. I guess that makes me an integrative holistic trauma surgeon*." -- doc bastard
*conscientious physician

considering how much damage an illiterate megalomaniacal sociopath dumbass already inflicted on american institutions, one should have nightmares about accidentally electing an evil genius...

"the american abolitionist Wendell Phillips did in fact say that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." he added that "the manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten." -- Timothy D. Snyder ["on tyranny"]

phrase of the day: "vanguard of unreality" -- esquire

kid came up with a new word: *retroflection*
[upon googling, we find it is not a new word. means "a turning or tilting backward of an organ or body part"

There have been really few science fiction movies. They have mostly been fantasies, with spaceships.” -- ursula le guin

"The notion of affirmative consent did not fall from space in October 2017 to confound well-meaning but bumbling men; it was built, loudly and painstakingly and in public, at great personal cost to its proponents, over decades." -- lindy west

An unspecified time after the impostor syndrome goes away, over-the-hill syndrome moves in: the irrational conviction that you're a burned-out has-been, phoning it in, best days behind you, a broken-down hack whose audience is losing interest rapidly.” — charlie stross  

i really look forward to a day where instagram and facebook are just quaint memories...

"Many oriental cultures make a distinction between two ways of looking – ‘hard eyes’ and ‘soft eyes’. When we look with hard eyes, we see specific details with sharp focus, but we don’t see the relationships between different details as well. When we look with soft eyes we see the relationships between everything in our field of vision, but with this softer focus, we don’t see all the details as clearly. It’s possible to look in two ways at once.” – John Paul Caponigro

History doesn't repeat. 
But sometimes it echoes.
Loudly.
--- joanne freeman [historian]

seeing

a good time to repost this quote from my good friend.

"Seeing, in the finest and broadest sense, means using your senses, your intellect, and your emotions. It means encountering your subject matter with your whole being. It means looking beyond the labels of things and discovering the remarkable world around you." -- Freeman Patterson

6.12.2017

searching for a lost aha moment...

I once had a powerful AHA moment about clarity, accuracy and availability of technical communication in development/it environments. I often thought about this issue because I passionately hate the multiplicity and sloppiness of technical communication that ends up in emails, issue tickets and sometimes in a corporate-wide wiki, in multiple forms, cut-and-pasted-edited from each other. if you're really lucky, wiki is often the slightly more authoritative location, but usually subject to unexpected edits: "we had a meeting on that, and but looks like we neglected to update the wiki from the meeting minutes." [you know you are really lucky, because there were meeting minutes.]

unfortunately I have no idea where i made a note of this insight. i know some pieces were locked into place with a big clunk, and I'm sure I made a note of the details. as I go through collected papers, folders and notebooks, I still look for it. clearly I should have thought about availability of my communication to my future self.

pro tip: all epiphanies should go into dedicated notebooks, and kept in someplace safe.



1.25.2017

recently found pieces of wisdom

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.” ― Maya Angelou 

"You don’t need to be brilliant to be a danger to democracy; quite literally, an idiot could do it." -- yonatan zunger ["when villains aren't super"] 

"it took a day and night of hard drinking to do some hard thinking about the implications."  [from greg benford's "reasons not to publish"]

"Vote because you can. Speak because you can. March because you can. Rights not exercised are quickly forgotten and lost." -- garry kasparov


"Dystopia and utopia are both *literary categories*. To the relatively rich, naturalistic description of the lives of the poor seem dystopian." -- william gibson

'And all those exclamation marks, you notice? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head.' -- terry pratchett ["Maskerade"]

"I can see this is going to be an Extra-Strength Monday The block button, it's the Excedrin of Twitter" -- stonekettle

"What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence" - Christopher Hitchens (Hitchens's Razor)


"The same people who claim everyone is entitled to their own facts, abandon that belief when those facts don't accord with their experiences." -- Peter Boghossian

 "Any leader who justifies an action by invoking 'the will of the people' is about to do something very nasty to their people." -- alain de botton

“Zen pretty much comes down to three things -- everything changes; everything is connected; pay attention.” -- Jane Hirshfield 

"Ever wonder what it'd be like to go back in time and help fight nazis? Support Civil Rights Era? Resist Native genocide? Now's your chance" -- xeni jardin

"
Am feeling very grateful to all the people who took their time to explain to me what communism is really like. Truly appreciate it:)" -- martina navratilova 

1.10.2017

recently noted thoughts

"The supposedly dystopian aspect of my work has never been that, but rather the application of literary naturalism to imagined futures." -- william gibson

"make visible, what without you, might perhaps never have been seen." -- robert bresson

"Duality can breed insight but it can also breed delusions." -- Tressie McMillan Cottom

"The math of time is simple: you have less than you think and need more than you know." -- kevin ashton ["how to fly a horse"]

 "where egotism is not made the measure of reality and value, we are citizens of this vast world beyond ourselves, and any intense realization of its presence with and in us brings a particularly satisfying sense of unity in itself and with ourselves" -- john dewey [art and experience]

"Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn't matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough. Work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best. Don't think about what you want to be, but what you want to do. Keep up some kind of a minimum with other things so that society doesn't stop you from doing anything at all." ~Richard Feynman

it is truly horrifying how little we learn from history and how quickly we throw away what little we had learned. 

"To a man devoid of blinders, there is no finer sight than that of the intelligence at grips with a reality that transcends it." -- Albert Camus

"most peasants want nothing more than the illusion of a voice. father says that's what democracies are for." -- from "the capture of benedict arnold" episode, Timeless.

facebook: where news comes to die a horrible death of a thousand fake links.

FUN FACT: "Internet of Things" is the colloquial short form of the longer term "Internet of Things that should not be on the Internet". -- fabian giesen


"you're a giant chunk of spinach in the teeth of the universe." -- the good place

 “be-careful for what you wish for it may be seeking you as well...”
― Master Golden Wizard "Luxas Aureaum"


"Only when the past ceases to trouble and the anticipations of the future are not perturbing is a being wholly united with his environment and therefore fully alive. Art celebrates with particular intensity the moments in which the past reinforces the present and in which the future is a quickening of what now is." -- john dewey ["art as experience"]

"We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere." -- Elie Wiesel [1986 Nobel peace prize speech]

all that you touch
you change

all that you change
changes you.

-- octavia e butler


"My newest horror story: Once upon a time there was a man named Donald Trump, and he ran for president. Some people wanted him to win." -- stephen king

"Oh! Suspense! Democracy's going to end with cliffhanger! I guess we're all just gonna have to wait until November 9th to find out if we still have a country! If Donald J. Trump is in the mood for a peaceful transfer of power.
Or if he's just going to wipe his fat ass with the Constitution."" -- stephen colbert


"Counter to the internet isn't censorship, it's misinformation & information glut. Counter to dissident politics is destruction of privacy." -- zeynep tufekci


"My favorite English professor was primarily concerned with the mass psychology of fascism. Wish I weren't finding that all so handy now" --william gibson
"a word of advice: stop searching. forget vision, forget personal style, forget unique voice; these are not goals, they are byproducts. the most meaningful art you can make is not about a particular look, subject matter or visual effect, but about the way you respond to and interpret the world." -- guy tal

"working under a deadline is endlessly rich in opportunities for self-discovery." — andré kukla

"humor is a far more potent crowbar than statistics for wrenching people from their preconceptions." -- p z myers ["happy atheist"]

"you're over 40? you don't even remember what your dreams were..." -- anonymous comic ["whitney cummins' bleep show"]

"i'm 18! ...
la la la la la la
I don't hear you!!!" -- the kid


"some things you teach yourself to remember to forget." -- william gibson ["count zero"]

To those who wish to become better artists, and better people, my best advice can be summed up in one word: read. And to those who wish for their work to make a difference to others, my best advice can also be summed up in one word: write." -- guy tal

"If you are talking about humans and you use terms like 'half breed' seriously you're racist, an idiot, or a racist idiot."
-- peter da silva


sake for the body, haiku for the heart;

sake is the haiku of the body,
haiku is the sake of the heart.
-- santōka taneda


"Sometimes you can only find Heaven by slowly backing away from Hell." -- carrie fisher [wishful drinking]

7.21.2016

blue shutters

revisiting an old favorite for a touch of color and dynamic range. this one is from new orleans french quarter, february 1999. i'm out very early, sun just coming up. walked quickly to ursulines and chartres to visit the old french colonial ursulines convent. it is closed, and there is not much to photograph from the outside. i turn around to leave, and see this across the street. [fuji velvia at iso 40] i should rescan and re-process this slide, but this original scan made for a limited edition print is workable with modern image processing tools.

google street view of the corner of ursulines and chartres shows that (as is the case with everything in the french quarter) the colors are the same, and the tree is still there.

6.16.2016

overturned

head full
of light and
white water


eyes
gleaming stones

I have become
a river running
to you


and time

the canoe

overturned


george swede [from "I want to lasso time"]