Medicine, Magic, and Art

It’s a turn-around jump shot
it’s everybody jump start
it’s every generation throws a hero up the pop charts
medicine is magical and magical is art
think of the Boy in the Bubble
and the baby with the baboon heart.

– Paul Simon, “The Boy in the Bubble” Graceland

The Default Setting

The world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able to truly care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the “rat race” — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing. I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational. What it is, so far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish.

– David Foster Wallace, This is Water (pdf)

Just reading that you can imagine a little bit of how hard it must have been for Wallace to operate day in and day out with an awareness of the world this raw and difficult and intimate. I never met him, but miss this man sooooooo much.

The American Fate

yet there is no avoiding time, the sea of time, the sea of memory and forgetfulness, the years of promise, gone and unrecoverable, of the land almost allowed to claim its better destiny, only to have the claim jumped by evildoers known all too well, and taken instead and held hostage to the future we must live in now forever. May we trust that this blessed ship is bound for some better shore…where the American fate, mercifully, failed to transpire…

– Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice

Comic Sans, a Tale of Design vs Usage

Check out this interview with Vincent Connare, typographer and former Microsoft employee, aka: The Comic Sans Guy. He makes a compelling argument for Comic Sans, and an also brings up an excellent point about the usage of anything designed:

Type should do exactly what it’s intended to do. That’s why I’m proud of Comic Sans. It was for novice computer users and it succeeded with that market. People use it inappropriately: if they don’t understand how type works, it won’t have any power or meaning to them. I once heard a guy at a Rothko show say: “I could have done that.” He clearly doesn’t know anything about art. He’ll probably use Comic Sans without realising it’s wrong in certain circumstances.

– via The Guardian (h/t to the Paris Review Daily)

Men of Action

All “direct” persons and men of action are active just because they are stupid and limited. How explain that? I will tell you: in consequence of their limitation they take immediate and secondary causes for primary ones, and in that way persuade themselves more quickly and easily than other people do that they have found an infallible foundation for their activity.

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from the Underground

(Quick tip: want to read all kinds of great classic lit eBooks for free? Head over to Project Gutenberg.)

Street People

I’m hangin’ out with the street people

They’ve got it down

Hangin’ out with the street people

Driftin’ from town to town

Who’s gonna work, make the economy grow

If we all hang out in the street

Well I don’t know, and I don’t care

Just as long as it ain’t me

– Bobby Charles, “Street People” 1972.

History’s Fiction

History, really, is fiction – not because it is made up of invented facts, for the facts are real, but because in the organization of those facts there is much fiction.

– José Saramago, The Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction No. 155”

Storytelling and Memory

It is the storyteller… who makes us what we are, who creates history. The storyteller creates the memory that survivors must have — otherwise surviving would have no meaning… This is very, very important… Memory is necessary if surviving is going to be more than just a technical thing.

Chinua Achebe, as quoted by the imitable Brain Pickings