On Finding Brian Writing

Brian Writing has moved! You can now find me at http://www.brian.digital/writing I switched from living on wordpress.com to managing a self-hosted site. Hopefully this doesn’t cause any headaches – I think I crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s, so you should still find me in your WordPress readers or email inboxes, if you are a subscriber. And Bonus! No more ads! All the old posts are also still available, so maybe use this update as a reminder to go digging through the archives while I come up with something new to write about. -Brian    

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on the Oscars and Being Liked

If you haven’t seen Birdman, Boyhood, or the Imitation Game, maybe don’t read this post yet. Three of the films nominated for Best Picture this year had climactic scenes in which characters confronted the importance of ‘being liked.’   Coincidence? Or important cultural phenomenon, captured? I’m leaning towards the latter. The ‘being liked’ discussion did heavy lifting in these narratives, and served as a critical character-defining plot point in each. In Birdman, Michael Keaton’s character Riggan is overwhelmed by the criticism and potential of failure he faces for trying to re-define his legacy. As a former action-movie star, now forgotten, his quest for recognition has led him to produce a serious drama on Broadway. He tries to explain his motivations to his daughter, Sam (Emma Stone) but she calls his sincerity into question. She’s right. Riggan: Listen to me. I’m trying to do something important. Sam: This is not important. Riggan: It’s …

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on ‘The End of Absence’

“I fear we are the last of the daydreamers. I fear our children will lose lack, lose absence, and never comprehend its quiet, immeasurable value.”  –  The End of Absence Many children this winter, especially in Boston, are having days off from school because of the weather. They’re being ‘absent.’ I used to love being ‘absent,’ on snow days. There was a peculiar isolation in it, a kind of detachment that’s almost impossible to reproduce now. This winter, those kids in Boston are having an entirely different ‘absence.’ They’re not absent in the way that I used to be absent. The End of Absence by Michael Harris is another book about the internet and how modern technology is changing the human experience. I keep reading books like this. Most of them have a pessimistic take on what it all means, and the fact that I spend many evenings reading stuff like this …

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Creativity and Daily Rituals

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Mason Currey. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. Reading Daily Rituals, an atlas of anecdotes regarding the daily tics of well known intellectuals, has given me pause to think about my own idiosyncrasies. Am I repeating actions habitually without realizing it? Do I have better days when I follow a routine? Coincidentally many of the famously creative people and their quirks share a common thread. Historically writers, painters, architects and their ilk seem to have had a few oft-employed strategies for balancing their burdens. Walking and solitude were critical in the schedules of the great thinkers, who all seemed to champion their restorative and catalytic powers. Beethoven took his strolls after a ‘midday dinner,’ while Freud ‘marched at a terrific speed’ after his evening meal. At two o’clock in the afternoon, Dickens promptly left his desk for a vigorous three-hour walk, doing what he described as ‘searching for …

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Jack Baker drummer of Bonobo at Coachella

Interview with Jack Baker, Drummer of Bonobo

Since the April 2013 release of the album ‘The North Borders,’ the electronic music group Bonobo has gained immense popularity by performing more than 175 concerts in 30 countries around the world, delighting over 2 million fans from Milwaukee and Moscow, to Istanbul and England. Along with a core group of live instrumentalists, Jack Baker made heads nod all along the way with his incredible drumming and percussions. I reached out to Jack, who was very kind to answer a few questions for the first interview I’ve ever posted on ‘Brian Writing.’ The truly wonderful North Borders – Live album was just released. Do you have any favorite moments or tracks on it? Did you know an album was in the works as you were performing on the tour?  Cirrus is my favourite tune on the album, mostly because we start the live set with it.  The adrenaline kicks in when I hear the opening bell parts and you know the show is about …

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Two Bloggers Blogging

I stumbled twice today on articles by bloggers, about blogging. First, in the Washington Post, Barry Ritholtz celebrated his 30,000th blog post. Yes, thirty thousand. If you’re having trouble comprehending that volume, you aren’t alone. He writes about finance in his personal blog and also contributes to several papers. Today was the first time I’ve ever read anything by him. Anyway, it’s taken me seven years to amass a paltry 172 entries in Brian Writing. At my current output, it will take me ONE THOUSAND two-hundred and fifty years (1,250 years) to catch up with Mr. Ritholtz. I better get going. Secondly, my LinkedIn feed promoted a post by Richard Branson on his blogging tendencies. Instead of celebrating the milestone of an umpteen-thousandth post, Mr. Branson offers a general treatise on writing habit. The Virgin Galactic founder says that topics can be found in anything (I agree) and also praises the art of delegation – although he insists his …

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on Opening Doors

One afternoon last week, S. made some scrumptious turkey burgers for me to scarf down before heading out to my first night class of the Fall semester. I was recently accepted to, and enrolled in a Technology Management program at Georgetown University. My first class is called ‘Technology & Ethics.’  Occasionally in our apartment, the sound of neighbor’s doors opening and closing slides in to our kitchen, or a gust of wind rattles the window. Otherwise, it’s fairly quiet.  We were entirely surprised when halfway through the meal, we heard our front door open. Not just the kind of brief shake that happens if wind clatters through, but a full-on human powered door opening.  Generally our door is locked, but in the hectic few moments between coming home from work and leaving for school, I must have forgotten to secure it.  From the angle I was sitting, I was able to turn and see an arm on the handle …

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the Obstacle is the Way

Ryan Holiday, ‘The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art Of Turning Trials Into Triumph.’  2014 Portfolio Hardcover, 224 p.  Holiday’s premise, and that of the philosophers whom he quotes rigorously, is that any challenge in life is best met head on. I was immediately intrigued by the book’s brash attitude. Over and over again, the point was made that obstacles, challenges and trials are essential to the human experience, and attempting to live without them or constantly avoid them is meaningless and harmful. Breaking the philosophy into three distinct methods, he highlights Perspective, Action, and Will as the means to defeat any hardship. Perspective, the first, defines how to approach a setback. It is the “fundamental notion that girds not just Stoic philosophy but cognitive psychology: Perspective is everything.” Take an obstacle for what it is: not how it makes you feel, what it might imply for the future, what its cause may have …

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Identity is the New Money

Thoughts on Identity is the New Money, by David Birch. 126 p. London Publishing Partnership, May 2014. Despite its provocative title, I didn’t finish this book with a precise understanding of how money will be replaced by identity; but along the way there were several interesting points regarding the advancement of mobile technology as a payment mechanism, and the implications for digital identity and privacy. The brief case studies indicate international efforts to make digital identities are further along than the USA’s, but no one is making great strides in adoption just yet. I was left with questions about the book’s central idea, which is not a necessarily a bad thing when reacting to this kind of abstract premise. Was he saying I’ll be able to buy goods and services based on how many facebook friends I have? That the social graph alone will prove my ‘credit-worthiness’ and earn me whatever I need that I …

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I’m actually wearing pants right now

I  just finished reading ‘The Year Without Pants,’ written by a Scott Berkun, a former manager at WordPress.com. It’s an in-the-weeds tale of life at a distributed (remote work) company, something anybody who has ever sat in a cubicle fantasizes about. I picked the book up because I wanted to know more about working from home, and whether it’s a realistic alternative.   I love WordPress, the company, which is a great way to write, receive feedback, and share my thoughts with whoever wants to read them. As a user of their products I totally endorse their mission and what they stand for. But a few things about the story make me think the author wasn’t completely sold on working remotely all of the time.   The story finishes with the writer’s departure from the company, only a few years after starting. To me, this makes a pretty big statement. He doesn’t really elaborate on his decision to leave, aside …

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