Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Whatever is at Hand

Life is full of limitations but those limitations are the doors to creativity.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Real Life Heretic: Andrew Goldsworthy

To say that an artist is a heretic is rather redundant, but Goldsworthy is an example of a particular type of artistic heresy that is about meaning and purpose and value and so it interests me. There is a movie about Goldsworthy that paints quite a beautiful picture. What strikes me is that whatever it is that gives each particular piece its purpose meaning is also the very thing that will destroy it. A sculpture made of the stones in a tidal pool will be swallowed up by the tide. Isn't this the way it is with heretical ideas. The very thing that makes them heretical will also be the thing that destroys them when the disconnect is exposed.

The other thing I like about Goldsworthy  and other similar artists is that you have to ask where is the art? There is an experience that the artist has but that is not what the viewer sees. They see the artifact: the photograph, and imagine the experience of being there but the sculpture is long gone. 

The formula can be adapted. The Studio in Fairfield, CT takes young people to the woods to create "Goldsworthy-like" sculpture but Goldsworthy is no longer part of the process. He disappears like his work.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sir Occam and Uncle Elliot's Razors

My Uncle Elliot's father was a peddler and when my uncle was a young boy, his father took him to the market where he bought his goods. His father gave him a small amount of money and said "See what you can do with this." My uncle bought a box of razor blades and when he got home he went to every drug store in the neighborhood and tried to sell them. The first pharmacist said, "Well I don't need razor blades but I do need toothbrushes." The second pharmacist needed cotton swabs and so on. When my uncle went back to the odd lot he borrowed money from his father and bought all the goods and went back to the pharmacists and made a profit and more orders. From that small beginning he built an empire of pharmacies.

Sir Occam had a razor of a different kind. It was an instruction to precisely narrow down possible solutions to a problem as if cutting them down with a razor. His instruction went something like this: "The solution with the least assumptions is probably the best." Einstein said it another way: "A solution should be as simple as possible but no simpler." I've always been troubled by Occam's razor because it seemed to narrow. It is a useful tool for pragmatic thinking. It keeps you from looking for zebras when you hear hoofbeats. However, the world is a lot more complicated. A razor may be precise but it cannot cut a drop of water.

My uncle had the wrong solution based on the wrong assumption that local drug stores needed razor blades. He should have failed but instead he succeeded. I often remind people of the saying: "When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail." My uncle had only one solution and in that situation most people would have gotten stuck. I wasn't there but I'm convinced that there is only one way he could have pulled it off: He was open to possibilities. Otherwise the pharmacists would not have given him the time of day. 

This is the key: choose the simple solution but be open to infinite possible other solutions.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Welcome to the Machine

When I first heard Pink Floyd as a teen living in New Windsor, NY, I thought "Finally, here are people who know how it feels to be me," even though their songs were about drug attics in England. There was something in the sound of the interludes between their songs that spoke to the isolation and disconnect that I felt all the time while living in Suburbia. I listened to that music alone in my room to at least make one part of my environment achieve equilibrium with what was going on in my head.

Now I have chosen to live in Suburbia and I have words to describe the inherent problems: Unsustainability; Erosion of Identity; Illusion of Control. I can balance the isolation with family and the Internet and the disconnects with my work on The Heretic's Toolbox. I still need to listen to those haunting sounds to remember that I am not a machine but a thinking, exploring and awe inspired human being. 

Here is my ode to Pink Floyd instrumentals created with a keyboard, MIDI TO USB interface and Garage Band and posted to Soundcloud:

Note: this clip was originally used in this post

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Underground

The Underground is where you stuff your unacceptable feelings and ideas, everything that makes you feel different. When you go to any actual underground space it reminds you of your inner basement where you hide your true self.

But you have accepted that you are a heretic now (sorry it comes with reading this blog) so you need to go down there and find all that "different" stuff and bring it up to the open. You need to finally own and be your true self.

This makes the Underground less of a scary place and more of an exciting exploration.

You also hide your pain in the underground which makes it especially uncomfortable, but it can be an opportunity. Down in those caverns you will also find your bravery and you can use that to confront your pain.

In this way, the Underground can become a place to heal.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Question Everything

Question Everything

If you are a Heretic, that is what you do right?

Some people are afraid that questioning destroys things. It doesn't destroy... It changes.

Questioning always changes things even if, after questioning you still agree with the original premise, you change it slightly. You cannot help but see the thing in question in a new light a new framework of thinking, because you questioned it.

And frameworks of thinking are contagious.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Your own Private Hackathon

Hacking: Disrupting things made for the masses so they work for the individual.

My company recently had a Hackathon which is a two day marathon of engineers working on their own ideas. I get excited about this because hacking seems to me to be an ideal Heretic's tool. 

Fluxite: Try it yourself: Find every day things made for the masses and in your mind break apart the function of the object and repurpose it for something that serves your heretical plans.

Hack an object

Example: Stapler as catapult

Hack a System

Example: This was created in PowerPoint

Hack a process:

Example: Modified GTD Process: Defer, Delete, Deconstruct, Delegate, Do

Hack an Idea:

Example: Socrates statement "All that I know is that I know nothing" can be reinterpreted to be seen as giving us the freedom to recreate our reality.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Programmers: Creating Something from Nothing

Open a text editor, the programmer's tool, and look at that wide open space. Programmers create something from nothingness. They start by setting up variables which are empty containers made of thin air, that can be filled and emptied again and again with whatever you want. They query the world in the form of "If this is the case, then do this, else do that." With this simple instruction they can branch off the well worn path into the deep dark of the forests of new ideas. they create loops that go around like a carousel, each time grabbing for a new ring. They build beast-like procedures that they feed parameters and milk for results. All this in the service of solving problems, and the singular goal of making things just a little bit better.

Learn to program: Codeacademy

Programming for kids: Scratch

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Meaning Making: an Ongoing Practice

We ignore whatever we can't make meaning out of. If you want to really see what is around you in the world, you need to practice making more meaning. But don't go to where there is already meaning. Don't go to where things are known. Find the empty places. Allow yourself to be in the state of not knowing. That is where you will learn to make meaning. This is why you need to look at Dada Art and listen to experimental music and watch performance art. You need to walk around at dusk where you can't quite see where you are going. You need to create programming code or spreadsheets that don't solve any problem. You need to immerse yourself in a language you don't speak. The world is built again and again by meaning makers. You need to be one of them.

Dada at MoMA:

Experimental Music at Epitonic

10 Contemporary Performance Artists You Should Know

Friday, March 29, 2013

I Want to Dance in my Blindspots

I want to dance in my blindspots
and step off the edge of my established patterns.
I want to reach below the surface, see behind the mirror, 
and push on the boundaries of reason.
All the clever platitudes and warnings of impropriety
are like confetti to me now, swirling in the vacuum of mindless repetition.
I step out of the costume, the uniform the straightjacket
into the crisp air and bright light of ideas that question everything 
and the irreplaceable joy of knowing that you don't know.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Real Life Heretic: Marcin Jakubowski

Here is someone who is going to change the world by taking action on an idea and sharing the results. The idea is that people are not reliant on the current commercial distribution system for getting the tools they need to build sustainable communities. They can take advantage of the open source and maker culture to produce their own tools.

I first heard about this idea from Chase Randell who I wrote about in a previous post. What is interesting about these people is that they acted on their ideas first instead of waiting for permission OR an audience.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Redefining the Game

If you were to do your job perfectly, wouldn't you put yourself out of a job?

Let's play around with this idea. Get some friends to help you out. Go play a game of soccer (football) and pretend you are the Six Million Dollar Man. Each player will act as if they are in slow motion but you will go faster and make a goal. If you  keep this up, you will quickly end the game. There will be no point in playing again. Here you are the best player but there is no game to play. 

You can try to avert this problem by protecting the existence of your job.

Play the same game but this time refuse to  score a goal and simply run circles around the other players. It may seem like you can succeed this way but the game will end soon in this scenario as well.

If your job can't be to protect your job then maybe the goal is to continually redefine your job.

This time let's turn this into an Infinite Game called Abstractjamball (My Performance Art Troupe in the eighties did this prior to Watterson's Calvinball) Pass the ball from player to player and who ever has possession of the ball makes different rules.

What effect would continually redefining your job have. Scary? More scary than becoming irrelevant? What would it look like, how would you draw a new line around what you are responsible for and how would you transform the final product? Can you imagine doing this kind of transformation indefinitely?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Heretics Need to be Inspired to Action

It can be discouraging sometimes, being a heretic. It is the nature of the business. 

To stay on track you need to be inspired to action. There are people who will tell you that you are doing everything wrong and people who will tell you that everything is going to be great. What you really need is someone to tell you what you need to find in yourself to move forward and what is at stake. 

Here are some bloggers who do this regularly and some of their best articles on the subject.