How the Hawks are running away with the East

I love this so much:

[Point guard Jeff Teague] reported to training camp in September 2013 and couldn’t find his chair. “You’re over there now,” said reserve big man Gustavo Ayon, motioning to the spot between center Al Horford and forward Mike Scott. [Head coach] Budenholzer wanted players sitting next to one teammate they could influence and another who could influence them.

How the Hawks are running away with the East

The Amazon order test as an algorithm for evaluating books

If you read a book, how many other related or similar books does it make you order? […] If you don’t end your read with some additional book orders, maybe you need to ask yourself what exactly went wrong.

And this is worth pondering:

How about a book review outlet which refuses to consider the books under consideration, but rather considers and evaluates what they will induce you to read next?

The Amazon order test as an algorithm for evaluating books

Don’t focus too much on this idea that your influences will be similar to people whose films you admire. In fact, it’s really the opposite: You like people who are doing something completely different, and it’s very relaxing to you because they’re dealing with all kinds of problems you don’t have to deal with.


Over the fireplace in the first house my parents owned together, the house I was brought back to when I was born, the words BOIS TORTU FAIT FEU DROIT were painted on the brick in Gothic script. Crooked logs make straight fires.

The way I choose to make its meaning: out of something gnarled, tough, flawed comes something with use and power.

Or, even busted shit can work if put to use in the right way.

Or, twisted bizarro brains shine bright too.

Crooked wood, straight fires! It was a cold house, and I don’t remember it. I’ve heard many times from my parents about glasses of water that froze solid on bedside tables over night.

Rhizome | A Conversation with Jonathan Lethem

Lethem on art and identity and betrayal:

We are so prone to feeling betrayed by the artist in some way. Because the art does something so extraordinary to us that then we find out some detail. “Oh! He stole that from Willie Dixon.” “Oh! He beat his wife.” “Oh! He picks his nose in public.” “Wait a minute. He made that thing that changed my life. This is incongruent. I don’t like it!” That’s why we get so betrayed by the knowledge of appropriations, because we’re holding art to this very weird standard where it is actually about us. It’s about our own lives.

On T.S. Elliott and art that lets you cite:

T.S. Elliott has this appendix to The Wasteland where there are all these citations. We’ll put aside the fact that probably no one ever bothers to read that. But it’s there. He tried. It’s right there. But if a painter makes a canvas, it does not have room for footnotes on it. And a lot of art, the form doesn’t invite the same kinds of embrace of transparency. The specific gestures just don’t work. So what do you do? There might be follow-up. You could speak in an interview, you could make a gesture. But you know what? Not everyone wants to do that. Not everyone wants to be interviewed about their work at all. They want to just make it. And that’s okay.

On Led Zeppelin and Willie Dixon vs. Paul Simon and Graceland, and the axes of judging appropriation:

There are sort of two primary axes on which we make the individual judgment. One is: degree of transformation and the other is degree of transparency and or citation. In other words, how much do they really make something different out of what they appropriated? And how much did they make it easy to see that there was someone else’s gesture behind their own?

Rhizome | A Conversation with Jonathan Lethem

The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.

Hoffman & Casnocha. Warren Buffett agrees:

Hang around people who are better than you all the time. You do pick up the behavior of people who are around you. It will make you a better person. Marry upward. That is the person who is going to have the biggest effect on you. A relationship like that over the decades will do nothing but good.

If I can stretch this a bit, they don’t even have to be alive! See Austin Kleon:

The great thing about dead or remote masters is that they can’t refuse you as an apprentice. You can learn whatever you want from them. They left their lesson plans in their work.

We [are] shaped as writers, I believe, not much by who our favorite writers are as by our general experience of fiction. Learning to write fiction, we learn to listen for our own acquired sense of what feels right, based on the totality of the pleasure (or its lack) that fiction has provided us. Not direct emulation, but rather a matter of a personal micro-culture.

William Gibson via Brain Pickings. I just picked up this book. Really looking forward to reading more.

The great thing about dead or remote masters is that they can’t refuse you as an apprentice. You can learn whatever you want from them. They left their lesson plans in their work.

It’s so easy not to realize you’re under someone else’s influence. When we tell ourselves something, it’s always in our own voice, so it naturally seems like our idea. (Though we can often hear the influence when we say things aloud to others.)

Oh you have a dream? You should pay a lot of money for that dream and maybe at the end of a lot of debt you’ll be better at that dream.

Annie Clark on education at Berklee College of Music. Another take in an earlier interview:

At some point you have to learn all you can and then forget everything that you learned in order to actually start making music.

I think a lot of people, if they’re not careful, can err on the side of the quantifiable and approach it like an athlete. Run that little bit faster, do that little bit more and think you’re being more successful. But the truth is that a lot of times it’s not necessarily about merely being the best athlete, it’s about attempting a new sport.

Uncreative Writing: It’s Not Plagiarism. In the Digital Age, It’s ‘Repurposing.’ – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Summarizing some of Marjorie Perloff’s ideas on unoriginal genius:

Today’s writer resembles more a programmer than a tortured genius, brilliantly conceptualizing, constructing, executing, and maintaining a writing machine.


For the past several years, I’ve taught a class at the University of Pennsylvania called “Uncreative Writing.” In it, students are penalized for showing any shred of originality and creativity. Instead they are rewarded for plagiarism, identity theft, repurposing papers, patchwriting, sampling, plundering, and stealing. Not surprisingly, they thrive.


Uncreative Writing: It’s Not Plagiarism. In the Digital Age, It’s ‘Repurposing.’ – The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Decay of Lying – Oscar Wilde

Dang, this is a great essay. If you only know it from the famous “Life imitates Art” bit out of context, you’re missing out on a world of goodness. There’s a million quotable parts. Here’s a few…

I first got sucked in with this (tongue-in-cheek?) bit on Nature.

If Nature had been comfortable, mankind would never have invented architecture, and I prefer houses to the open air. In a house we all feel of the proper proportions. Everything is subordinated to us, fashioned for our use and our pleasure. Egotism itself, which is so necessary to a proper sense of human dignity, is entirely the result of indoor life. Out of doors one becomes abstract and impersonal. One’s individuality absolutely leaves one.

I wonder about this one:

The more abstract, the more ideal an art is, the more it reveals to us the temper of its age. If we wish to understand a nation by means of its art, let us look at its architecture or its music.

On the change from old-school fiction vs. fiction in Wilde’s time, when novels were really taking off. Still true today?

The ancient historians gave us delightful fiction in the form of fact; the modern novelist presents us with dull facts under the guise of fiction.

And finally to that “Life imitates Art” thing.

Things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced us. To look at a thing is very different from seeing a thing. One does not see anything until one sees its beauty. Then, and then only, does it come into existence. At present, people see fogs, not because there are fogs, but because poets and painters have taught them the mysterious loveliness of such effects.

Along the same lines…

A great artist invents a type, and Life tries to copy it, to reproduce it in a popular form, like an enterprising publisher.

We see lilypads and think of Monet, we see Western landscapes as perfect replicas of an Ansel Adams, we experience love through filters we borrowed from Romeo & Juliet or Casablanca. Reminds me of a bit I quoted from The Age of the Infovore, when Tyler Cowen acknowledges that many of his dreams, fantasies, experiences are borrowed:

I treasure those thoughts and feelings so much but in reality I pull a lot of them from a social context and I pull them from points that are socially salient. That means I pull them from celebrities, from ads, from popular culture, and most generally from ideas that are easy to communicate and disseminate to large numbers of people. We all dream in pop culture language to some degree.

The Decay of Lying – Oscar Wilde

Purloined Letters: Are we too quick to denounce plagiarism?

A brief essay James R. Kincaid in The New Yorker, January 20, 1997. I like this bit, quoting Helen Keller:

It is certain that I cannot always distinguish my own thoughts from those I read, because what I read becomes the very substance and text of my mind.

That’s found in her autobiography, where she goes on to say:

Consequently, in nearly all that I write, I produce something which very much resembles the crazy patchwork I used to make when I first learned to sew. This patchwork was made of all sorts of odds and ends–pretty bits of silk and velvet; but the coarse pieces that were not pleasant to touch always predominated. Likewise my compositions are made up of crude notions of my own, inlaid with the brighter thoughts and riper opinions of the authors I have read. It seems to me that the great difficulty of writing is to make the language of the educated mind express our confused ideas, half feelings, half thoughts, when we are little more than bundles of instinctive tendencies. Trying to write is very much like trying to put a Chinese puzzle together. We have a pattern in mind which we wish to work out in words; but the words will not fit the spaces, or, if they do, they will not match the design. But we keep on trying because we know that others have succeeded, and we are not willing to acknowledge defeat.

Purloined Letters: Are we too quick to denounce plagiarism?