Brain Food #396

The New Yorker

Daily Brain Food.

Thoughts of the day

Happy Friday.

Today is the publishing anniversary of The New Yorker, the iconic magazine which began in 1925 and managed to survive through history thanks to its exquisite, instantly recognisable covers, intelligent and often humorous writing, and its delightful comic strips.

Essentially, The New Yorker was a publication that offered a taster of everything, and though its initial goal was to bring quality, fact-checked writing to the people who lived in New York, its readership has expanded beyond the Big Apple, showing that when you have found your North Star, you may still light up a larger portion of the sky.

It contained content that challenged the reader, an act described by Kurt Vonnegut as “[…] teaching an audience how to play this kind of music in their heads. It's a learning process, and The New Yorker has been a very good institution of the sort needed.”

It is easy to conform and hard to challenge. But it is those who both disrupt and adapt that stand a better chance. And, put more simply, people do not want to be treated as if they are stupid.


The source of the expression “Back to the drawing board”. Peter Arno cartoon of The New Yorker of March 1, 1941, depicting an engineer walking away from a crashed plane.

Image result for new yorker cartoon back to the drawing board

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Brain Food #395

You can do anything, but not everything

Daily Brain Food.

Thoughts of the day

Today, a short thought on time and infinity, or its absence. Though infinity exists in the universe, it may be hard to accept that it does not for us. How we navigate life becomes a matter of accepting the finiteness of our time here, and choosing how to spend it.

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, summarises it very concisely:

"You can do anything, but not everything. There is always more to do than there is time to do it, especially in an environment of so much possibility. We all want to be acknowledged; we all want our work to be meaningful. And in attempt to achieve that goal, we all keep letting stuff enter our lives."


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Brain Food #394

Different selves and different styles

Daily Brain Food.

Thoughts of the day

Giorgio de Chirico, one of the most celebrated Italian painters of the past century, tended to vary his style, often to the delight of his critics who would jump at the opportunity to say he lacked a voice.

What if style was something external to his own decisions, though? Like the calling of the muse, it became something to follow, not to create: “Wanting to have a style,” he said, “is the only way to never have one […] The less you think about it, the more it needs you.”

Contingency and indifference then become an inevitable part of the creative process.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “Writers have to change because the audience changes.”

But writers change, either way.

Adapting styles, or going through periods, is something most artists have showcased. Like life itself, the act of creation is a process of discovery, fulfillment, closure and moving on.


A glance at the paintings below may suggest an exploration of styles, that still remains connected by an invisible thread, showing that the self does not disappear, it only explores.

Image result for de chirico different periods

The Song of Love, 1914

Image result for de chirico self portrait 1925

Self Portrait, 1925

Image

Horses by the Seaside, 1928


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Brain Food #393

Your taste is why your work disappoints you.

Daily Brain Food.

Thoughts of the day

There is taste, there is style, and there is the thing in the middle, a sort of chasm in which we float, trying to make the two ends meet.

For those who get disheartened when their efforts are not (yet) reaching the desired results, the following words by American radio host and writer Ira Glass may resonate:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.

But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.

Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.

Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met.

It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.


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Brain Food #392

Are we acting out of hope or fear?

Daily Brain Food.

Thoughts of the day

Good morning.

Advertising theory claims that people are driven to buy things for two reasons: to gain pleasure or to avoid pain.

Similarly, in life, are we acting out of hope or out of fear? Is fear getting in the way of hope? Both lie deep in the imagination. Fear is what we imagine will go wrong. Hope is what we imagine will go as desired. 

And if our hopes are not that apparent, perhaps what we fear the most could very well be the opposite of what we desire the most.

Marie Curie said, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Through knowledge and understanding, fears can be overcome, paving the path to realising, or even re-evaluating, one’s hopes.

As Alain de Botton wrote, “The catastrophe you fear will happen has already happened”. Acting out of fear, then, could be an internal navigation mechanism, a compass pointing towards what it is we truly want, or do not want to lose, as long as we trace it back to its source.


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