Plug into your hard-wired happiness

Via TED, this is like my mindfulness class in a nutshell (less the meditation practice):

Srikumar Rao says we spend most of our lives learning to be unhappy, even as we strive for happiness. At Arbejdsglaede Live! 2009, he teaches us how to break free of the “I’d be happy if…” mental model, and embrace our hard-wired happiness.”

Slow blogging

What we’re approaching here is what was once “content” being stripped of its nutritious value and being processed into “content product”. See where I’m going with this? I could see, over time, readers realizing how many empty calories, in the form of news “snippets” or meaningless photos, we’ve been consuming on the web and there being a counter movement. I’ve seen the term “slow blogging” show up a few times around the web recently in different contexts, and it definitely comes to mind now. I could see a parallel on the web to what we’ve seen in the food industry, where the early adopters seek out whole, local, organic… content. From the source. On the site it was designed for, from the person who wrote it. Or at least prepared in a way that shows respect to the ingredient.

–Laura Brunow Miner, founder of Pictory (via Space Miner).

I consider myself one of those who made this realization about empty calories this year, and the “info-fast” during this past Ramadan was the perfect moment to put that realization into action.

Architecture can be used to tell stories

Architecture, as a discipline, can itself be used to tell stories. In fact, some of the most interesting student work today comes complete with elaborate plots and story lines, supplied for no other reason than to explain why a particular building should exist or require designing. These stories very often exceed today’s mass-market fiction in imaginative strength—to such a degree that I might suggest, only half-jokingly, that the reason fiction sells so badly in the United States today is because all of the people with real ideas have moved on to study architecture or urban design. American fiction has been left languishing in the hands of people at summer workshops in Iowa, obsessed with the morality of suburban fatherhood.

–Geoff Manaugh, from The BLDGBLOG Book.

Wade Davis

Anthropologist Wade Davis of National Geographic in an absolutely mind-blowing TED talk from 2003. I’m floored. I caught a bit of this guy today on the radio while driving back from the garage and wanted to find out more. He’s giving this year’s Massey Lecture. Read more

Escapism Is The Highest Form Of Art

Back in my university says, as I’ve mentioned before, I bristled against the self-importance of artsy film students who made boring (and therefore ignored) works of self-indulgent art. I was happy to make things that entertained because although moving an audience is a difficult thing, an unmoved audience is an audience that you don’t own, that doesn’t respect you, that forgets you as artist. Read more


The Alain de Botton book I’m reading, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, isn’t quite what I was hoping for, at least two-thirds of the way in. I was hoping for more insight into the lives and minds of people as they work and make their way through society. Mostly, though, we get an overview of the various sectors of industry with a kind of manufactured wonder for them. Still, he’ll occasionally drop in some gems like this one; he follows an accountant to her office after her morning transit commute. Read more

Career Counselling

More from The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton (expect more in due time; I wrote down tons of gems from his gorgeous book on architecture, The Architecture of Happiness, as I read it earlier this year, far too many to excerpt here). In this scene, the author watches via closed-circuit television as private career counselor Symons listens to client Carol describe “her personal history and professional dissatisfactions.” Read more

Biscuit Manufacture

From The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton, about a cookie company:

Partially undermining the manufacturer’s ability to assert that its work constituted a meaningful contribution to mankind was the frivolous way in which it went about marketing its products. Grief was the only rational response to the news that an employee had spent three months devising a supermarket promotion based on an offer of free stickers of cartoon characters called the Fimbles. Why had grown-ups so churlishly abdicated their responsibilities? Were there not more important ambitions to be met before Death showed himself on the horizon in his hooded black cloak, his scythe slung over his shoulder? Read more

Optimism vs. cynicism

Strange morning. I was listening to CBC Radio as I usually do. On The Current, they interviewed George Monbiot, a writer for The Guardian, who was talking about air travel within the context of global climate change. Pretty heavy stuff. I agree with all of it. We’re sitting in a closed garage with the car running, essentially, and rather than turn the car off, we’re just enjoying getting high off the fumes. Wonderful. (And for the record, yes, I own a car.)

Anyway, an hour later, on Sounds Like Canada, on comes Bruce Mau, a designer who recently published a think piece in The Walrus called “Optimism: Imagining The Future.”

As a global culture we are beginning to outgrow polarized and binary divisions but we still confuse the media with reality. If we were to publish a newspaper called Reality, it would be a mile thick. The first quarter-inch would arrive on your doorstep, scare the hell out of you, push the worst of human possibility into your world, make you want to lock your doors, inhibit your impulse toward community, and drive you to xenophobia, resentful and fearful of all the violent others determined to ruin your life. The rest of the mile of newspaper — the reality of our world, the part that never gets published — would be Massive Change, the story of how millions of people from every part of the world are working together to confront the dilemmas we face as a global society.

What is Massive Change, and why is it capitalized? Read more