12 September 2013

Mike Daisey on carrying a chopstick around

Just read an interview with Mike Daisey in this week's New York Magazine; this part was my favorite:

He dabs his sweaty forehead, just like onstage, and pulls out what I at first take to be a pencil. But it turns out to be, upon inspection, a lacquered chopstick. He looks embarrassed when I ask him about it. "Man, I'm supposed to leave it in my pocket during interviews," he says. "I actually have a little jar of them. When I was a kid, I would play with a pencil all the time. Then this will sound really weird. I transitioned from pencils to chopsticks, because when I would have a pencil, I would like to use unsharpened pencils, because I would stab myself in the hand with them, and they don't balance right. After I wrote my first book, people would come up to me and would be like, 'So, you're a writer. You aren't going to write very much with that unsharpened pencil.' This doesn't sound like a joke a lot of people would make. Crazy numbers of people would make this joke. Every fucking day. I literally trained myself to switch to chopsticks from pencils because it's weirder. No one says fucking anything, or they don't notice it. They're like, 'Is that a baton? What the hell is going on over there?'"

08 July 2013

Mapping the brain

I got an email a couple of months ago from a girl called Allison Morris, who stumbled upon my post on muscle memory and piano playing. She recently worked on an interactive piece that teaches you about the different parts and functions of the brain in a quick and fun infographic:

I spent a few minutes clicking around and the sound bites are really fun. My favorites: That there is activity in the occipital lobe (which handles vision) when blind people read braille, even though they aren't visually reading. That the hippocampus (the part of your brain that controls memory) is bigger than average in a London taxi driver's brain, "because complex spatial information is stored here (such as a spiderweb of roads)." There's also really interesting stuff about what happens in your brain when you hear voices as a schizophrenic, how the brains of musicians and multilingual people are different, etc. Take a few and click around. Super fun.

Also, if you haven't, click through to read about the BRAIN initiative - a research initiative to map the activity of every single neuron in the brain ("almost 100 billion neurons making trillions of connections") o_o

06 June 2013

SoHo buildings' economic domino effect

I just read a super interesting article on Urban Omnibus -- Living Lofts: The Evolution of the Cast Iron District. This is one of those articles that I want to copy and paste in its entirety. Briefly: It talks about how SoHo's buildings have been used over time, and what effects they have had on the communities, laws, and overall transformation of the neighborhood throughout history.

Doesn't show as well in this photo.

This is one of my favorite parts, on artist lofts in the 1960s:

Many lofts remained empty for quite some time until artists began moving in to what had become a desolate, dirty, and dangerous area. These new residents lived illegally in raw industrial lofts they made habitable by installing bathrooms and taping plastic sheets over the windows to keep out the cold. Living conditions were often uncomfortable at best. The area was empty at night, the crime rate was high, and the streets were filthy, as there was no regular trash pickup. There were no schools or clinics, and no grocery stores or restaurants, save for a couple of diners open only for breakfast and lunch to serve the factory workers. It was a kind of no-man’s-land that even taxi drivers had trouble navigating. On the other hand, the small population and isolation from infrastructure and resources created a tight-knit community of residents. Everyone knew each other by name and looked after one other. Because there were so few public services, the community provided for themselves, opening restaurants for locals and forming community playgroups where neighbors often paid for goods and services with their time and involvement instead of cash.

After 1971, it was deemed legal for artists to live in the smaller lofts in SoHo (in two specific zones), which brought up an interesting set of criteria on what makes one an artist (awesome when law and philosophy meet, no?). It sounds like artists had to fill these out when applying to live in the neighborhood. When an artist applied to live in SoHo, their "commitment to [their] creative work" would be assessed.

1. A description of the artist’s work.

2. A description of the artist’s need for space.

3. A biographical sketch including data the artist feels is pertinent; education, professional training, public exhibitions or performances, reviews, or grants.

4. Other data. If the artist does not feel properly represented by 1, 2, or 3, above, he can: a) present documentation of his work in the form of slides, photographs or other data which will back up his commitment and space needs—but not his aesthetics, or b) ask a few members of the Committee to visit his studio or working space to discuss his situation.

5. The names of two people who are familiar with the artist’s work and who can testify to his commitment and his need for loft space.

It doesn't sound like this law has formally disappeared: "Every non-artist who moves into SoHo today could theoretically be told to move out unless he or she can prove artistic legitimacy, but the probability of that aspect of the law being enforced is low."

There were tugs of war between artist tenants and landlords, and various social shifts that over a couple of decades have turned SoHo into what it is today. The article glosses over the minutiae of how these "economic and social" shifts happened, which I'd be really interested to read more about. This paragraph should feel more familiar to anybody who's been to the area recently:

The change in the socio-economic makeup of SoHo residents brought with it commercial development. Art galleries began to move out of the neighborhood in the 1980s and 1990s, mostly to Chelsea where rents were more reasonable, and were replaced by high-end boutiques, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Nightlife destinations brought unwelcome street noise, and the SoHo Alliance fought hard against the issuing of new liquor licenses.

So good. Heading over to the writer's more permanent home, SoHo Memory Project, to see if I can find out more.

02 May 2013


Sometimes it's ok to make an app that is a little piece of beautiful candy. From an email I wrote UC this month:

It's starting to get nice out.

You probably still want to make more of an effort to get up and walk around more during the day, right?

Do you like pretty things.

I've been using this app that does nothing other than chime every hour, half hour, or quarter hour.

It reminds me to get up, shake the zombie out and let my brain unravel.

(And if you've ever played Portal, you'll appreciate the Voice option).


26 February 2013

Four lexical gustatory examples

For anyone new to this blog or who doesn't know, I have two mild forms of synesthesia: sound color (I see colors when I hear certain sounds, notes or songs) and lexical gustatory (tasting certain things, or craving tastes, when I hear certain sounds or words) - I'm going to abbreviate this LG for now. The latter is much more fun, but as I said, they're both mild and don't surface that often. Well! Yesterday, I discovered a new LG synesthesia cue for me: the word "stickers" makes me taste and/or crave gummy candy. Neither the pearly kind nor the sour kind - the classic, transparent/jelly kind. I excitedly tweeted this, got into a mini conversation with Mikey Il about it, and then realized that sharing four of my lexical gustatory cues with you guys might be fun.

Lexical gustatory synesthesia

Media channel is celery. This one came up between 2 and 5 years ago. I'm thinking it was when I was still at Naked NY, since the nature of our work had us talking about media channels all the time. This is a very refreshing, crunchy pair of words for me.

Stickers is gummy candy. I have of course heard the word before, but for some reason when I read it out loud from an email yesterday, I flung up in my seat, ran to the kitchen, and ate a bunch of gummy Vitamin Cs and ginger chews. Every time I've uttered or heard the word since (I've been saying it a lot), I have the same sensation, taste, or craving.

Check is Doritos. Well, sort of. This one is fairly old, and I first remember it happening in middle school some time. It's not only the word check, but most words with a hard "ch" sound, and an "E" somewhere in the word. But the E has to be pronounceable. It can either be a short E, like in checkers, check, or Chester, or a long E, like in cheese, cheat, or cheek. Soft "ch" words don't count ("chenille" doesn't do anything for me in an LG way, for example, other than picturing a pile of cooked, blue-tinted glass noodles, but I'm not sure what that means either!? That literally just happened.).

Couch is my first LG cue ever, when I was about five years old. It happened while listening to a Teddy Ruxpin tape. There was one story where he and Grubby, and maybe some other characters were exploring the inside of a couch, and it was this big adventure. Every time Teddy Ruxpin said couch, I got this desire to eat something. But I couldn't figure out what, for years and years. Almost 20 years later, on the way to White Plains for a client meeting, a team I was on stopped to pick up lunch. The second I bit into my first-ever potato empanada, I yelled out loud, "OH MY GOD, IT'S COUCH!" I didn't realize this was due to a form of synesthesia yet, so it was a little awkward explaining what the hell I meant by my outburst.

Fun? Should I do more of these? Do any of you guys have any forms of synesthesia? Please tell me. I've never met or spoken to one before.

25 February 2013

Protecting the liquid gold.

I had heard about the epidemic of Tide thefts over the past couple of weeks, but finally read this article about it. Really interesting to hear about both the psychological and social roots that have slowly led to this bizarre cultural phenomenon, and the economic ramifications of it. All that blended with a bit of new knowledge on inventory, stocking, reselling stolen product, and the rise of this mass theft resulting in part from keener analysis on risks and benefits. It all lingered in my mind by today, at best, until I was met with this at a local drugstore:

Tide security.

Derrick pointed out that this is leather-jacket-level security. I asked the associates about it as well; apparently the hardware is so new that they still fiddle with the plastic tools that unlock each bottle. Which reminded me of this paragraph:

For stores, stopping Tide shoplifting presents unique challenges. Most frequently stolen goods—GPS devices, smartphones, and other consumer electronics—are pricey, light, and easily concealed. They’re also not routine purchases, which means they can be locked up until buyers ask for them. Bulk goods like detergent are harder to run off with, but they’re also bought by dozens of customers daily—lock those products up, and a store manager adds more time to his customers’ errand runs, potentially sending them to shop elsewhere. “Any time you secure something, it impacts the sale of that item at some level,” says Jerry Biggs, the director of Walgreens’ Organized Retail Crime Division.
This reminds me of something I'd hear about on the Freakonomics podcast; remember the cobra effect?

23 February 2013

Some Wurtzel quotes.

Until tonight, I had never read anything by Elizabeth Wurtzel. Is that crazy? Is it bad? Should I be embarrassed? I feel like it is, and I should be.

I read this article in New York Magazine, and my evening went from a little listless to a tornado of underlining and ripping pages out and taping them together elsewhere. Assorteds --

Meanwhile, most people who think they are practicing law are actually making binders, and my guess is that most people who think they are doing whatever important thing they are doing are making binders. The binders from law firms go to a locker in a warehouse in a parking lot in an office park off an exit of a turnpike off a highway off an interstate in New Jersey, never to be looked at again. No one ever read them in the first place. But some client was billed for the hourly work.

The best lesson I have learned from David Boies is patience. He deposed Bill Gates for twenty hours to get the answer he needed, so David believes in time.

Even when you are picking out a dog, it has to be true love and not a list of pluses and minuses or a bunch of desirable traits you would describe on OkCupid. There is no substitute for magic. I have only ever known love at first sight, and I know it when I see it.

I am Potter Stewart wandering through an overwhelming emotional life that only makes sense on contact. It’s all pornography to me, all of life is so visually rich and it all hits me absolutely like flat sheets of hard rain so that the only feeling I trust is the one that comes down in a devastating way. When I meet people who tell me that they are immune to the power of beauty or that they don’t get overwhelmed by plain old lust, I don’t think they are lucky; I think they are missing all the fun. And all the pain, of course.

We would have coffee and paprika biscuits in bed on Wednesday mornings.

The list of things I can’t be bothered with goes on forever. The list of things that bother me goes on forever.

Now, in a whole long day of croissants in the morning and multiple dog walks and stops at the bodega for yogurt and jam, I may speak with people I care about only in type.

I already know that the article will make some people roll their eyes, and, reading the first dozen or so comments, have seen even more - disgust, contempt, offense, and all out wars between commenters. As I read, I was in some inner part of my brain, and was only reading the words and visualizing it all. When I wake up and pull myself outward a little, it does seem to be a paradoxical blend of consciously describing being in the moment and all the way at the F extreme of the F/T continuum, and being at a high enough perspective to also consciously point out the shortcomings of a life led with intention, planning, and within a social construct of sorts. ANYWAY.

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