Daily Mind-ful 14 May 2017 (Luddite)

It ain’t easy being married to an angry and reluctant Luddite: the husband insists on using checks, can’t understand why computers don’t come with manuals and it takes him ages to complete online forms because he never learned to type; I try be sympathetic because a grey tsunami will inundate the UK soon and many older people will be helpless when confronted with today’s online, self-service economy; one of the benefits of being a Luddite, if such a thing can exist, is being able to watch something grow over a very long span of time, say, ten years, in the garden, something a young person cannot relate to at all these days; since we’re on the topic of housekeeping, I wanted to clarify my objection to cleaning and housekeeping. It is a philosophical and ethical one. Cleaning is a form of continuous reinstatement of the past. There is a major opportunity cost to such an activity. If you devote all your time and energy to constantly putting your house back in order — to the way it was before (clean versus dirty), you don’t very well have any time left over with which to learn and discover new things and experiences; in a related observation: have you ever noticed that there are only two kinds of people – people who trot out experiences and anecdotes from the past and people who never do that (preferring to keep their eyes and mind on what’s ahead of them)? I book my favorite restaurant in London, the Greenhouse, despite the fact that they were guilty of a hygiene infraction last year; like a good wife, I plan my itinerary in London tomorrow based on John’s preferences instead of my own, meaning that our day will be devoted to traditional, not contemporary, culture and exhibitions; that’s not to say that I don’t love old things. But that I’m always seeking out new experiences and objects which ill expand my mind. Old paintings don’t pass that test 98% of the time; similarly, and to cite another binary character typology: have you noticed that there are only two kinds of people, the first kind will seek to return to a favorite place again and again, whereas the opposite types avoids visiting the same place twice, even if he or she likes it a lot; while there’s no doubt that technology increases the quantum of our output, does it actually enhance brain function — or diminish it? Don’t buy Green & Black ice cream, it’s too aerated without any scrumptious, enlivening sparks of flavor; John sees me posting my negative comments about the ice cream and we have an altercation, with him saying that British people will never like me because I’m too confrontational and obnoxious; I ignore him completely; that’s the thing about Brits, they prefer to put up and shut up in public while fuming and seething about it in private. I’ll never understand, let alone condone, that.
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Daily Mind-ful 4 May 2017 (Waitrose)

[Main topic of this vlog: How Waitrose gives insight into the British middle class.] I experienced a step change in my tennis game, largely because of some simple, mechanical, bright line rules. If only our emotional or professional lives were as easy to improve; Waitrose is a great window into the British middle class; I’m consistently impressed by the high quality of every single product and the evident concern with provenance. To wit, the green beans were from Senegal, so I didn’t buy them; while their product assortment overlaps significantly with Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, there’s no liberal, progressive, hippie marketing schtick. Instead, the credo of whole, natural foods whose provenance and chain of custody is clearly documented is a mainstream, middle class concern. (Just remember that the British middle class is NOT the same as the American middle class. See this Quora post for elucidation.) Compared to a normal American grocery store, Waitrose has only the tiniest selection of processed foods; FINALLY, I signed up for Spotify, partially to get up to speed on Benjamin Britten in time for the Aldeburgh Festival; the Aldeburgh Festival is THE most important cultural event in my neck of the woods, East Anglia, and is a well-known classical music festival of global renown. Frankly, I would KILL to be involved with the festival in any way, shape or form; I’m a classical music fanatic actually, in case you didn’t gather from my content. Lately, I’ve become fascinated with contemporary classical music, of which, of course, Benjamin Britten was an early progenitor. Specifically, royalties from his music fund the Aldeburgh Festival. In fact, I’m a proud board member of Asia’s leading classical music solo recital series, which also founded the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival: Premiere Performances of Hong Kong. Honest to god, I would do ANYTHING for the founder, Andrea Fessler, who, in my opinion, has singlehandedly raised the bar on Hong Kong’s cultural scene for the past decade. How many people are insane enough to start a NEW cultural organization spearheading classical music in a city as culturally sere and vapid as Hong Kong?! As a board member of PPHK, I’m constantly thinking about how we can entice young people to try classical music for the first time; on vlogging: I deplore young bloggers’ preferred style of countless jump cuts. It’s too, well, jumpy; to avoid this effect, I only tape myself after I’ve worked everything out intellectually by laying down countless takes. These preliminary takes are me thinking out loud, rehearsing and logging my intellectual peregrinations as they occur. But at the end, I jettison those early takes and start from the beginning, striving to tape myself in relatively long, unbroken segments, in order to avoid that jarring jump cut style; indeed, I vlog in the same style as I write; and since we’re on the topic of speaking, I’d like to unequivocally condemn the excessive use of the word “like” — because it makes you sound like a teenage idiot; STOP already! Consider taping yourself in full conversational flow and you will see with your own eyes and ears how you come off. I assure you, you will not be impressed; the first track I listen to on Spotify is the sound track to the movie, Arrival, by Johann Johannsson. (I also downloaded Sicario by Johannsson.); in today’s United States, I can’t imagine venturing below the Mason-Dixon line, although Nashville does tempt me; hair elastics: will they last? They’re a prime example of the built-in obsolescence of cheap consumer products manufactured in China; fully one-third of British homes struggle to use the internet in the evening. I’m right to bitch about the horrendous lack of internet service in the countryside after all.
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Daily Mind-ful 3 May 2017 (The evolution of the photographic image)

[Main topic of this vlog: I explain why I want to write a book about the evolution of the photographic image and associate, riff and reflect free-form on the subject.] I leave London at an ungodly hour in order to meet John at the antique dealers’ fair in Long Melford; I end up buying an Ironstone pitcher from the turn of the century; I’m intimidated to walk around the hall by myself because it’s full of (only) superannuated white men. Yes, I’m serious; My favorite house in the countryside (so far): the pink house in the center of Cavendish; I seriously mull the idea of writing two books, one about environmental photography, the other about the evolution of the photographic image over the past thirty years, especially these past ten; Not only should the evolution of the image itself be considered (technically and technologically) but the ethical and societal implications of these shifts and what they mean for our interactions with others, our self-image, our morality, etc. THAT is the principal reason why such a book would be fascinating and why this question has piqued my interest so ferociously; Here are the issues about the evolution of the photographic image that I have identified very quickly: 1) photoshopping, its prevalence and universal acceptance 2) the selfie (and its implications for our body image, self-image and psychology) and 3) the democratization of photography (i.e., the phenomenon of everyone becoming a photographer); documentary, “objective” reportage in the style of the Magnum photographers has mostly gone out of fashion and been replaced by a much more subjective style of photography which uses photography as the instrumentality of content or messaging, frequently activist-style messaging, to wit, environmental photography; that’s largely explained by the democratization of photographic technology which enables the man on the street to mimic the style of most news photographers these days. It means that the value-added of the photographic image originally conferred by mastery of equipment and darkroom processes has been replaced, of necessity, by content and meaning. To my mind, that’s a major and welcome improvement in the culture of photography; similarly, realistic, gritty photography in the style of Terry Richardson and Terry Jones (ID Magazine) are now outmoded; gardening is futile – by definition. I don’t get it; not having a Facebook page is really stupid because Instagram is a really impoverished and unsuitable platform for sharing third-party content, especially textual or lengthy, or, for that matter, my long-form rants about capitalism, art, the environment, millennials, child rearing, etc.; my favorite stories on Instagram are Eva Chen‘s because she’s so real, with huge doses of thankfulness and humility. Plus, she’s completely average-looking; My vlogging as a talking head is stymied because my intention to vlog about The Week, my favorite magazine in the whole world, has been defeated by the near unanimity of commentary on the past three weeks of headline news, dammit! (The Week’s strength is collating and summarizing the full range of political opinion on the same issue, news or topic, even when those opinions are diametrically opposed to one another); totally psyched to discover that Macron’s wife is way older than him; and that he may also be bi – ha!
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Daily Mind-ful 29 April 2017 (Dulwich)

I don’t understand dogs. They’re so domesticated that they won’t leave the house after 8 hours inside unless a human takes them on a walk; travel and logistics nightmare today because I have to go to London and Dulwich and the trains are being repaired. It means we have to take the train from Stansted into the city – NIGHTMARE; an article in the the SmartCities SmartBrief about my home town, Cincinnati, Ohio, catches my eye: it’s about how the digital divide — and a lack of internet — prevents social mobility among the lower rungs of society; I complain about the lack of internet in the countryside but the digital divide mirroring the structural poverty of the poorest strata of society in the United States is actually much more serious. Living in the UK, perhaps I’ve become myopic and blind to such important issues; I dart into the “America After the Fall” exhibition at the Royal Academy and am struck by how many of the works painted during the Depression reflect the dystopian atmosphere and problems of today; at 45 Jermyn Street, I’m struck by how the thin value-add of Virgin Mary sauce on top of a smashed avocado justifies its overpriced place on the menu; then, we head off to Dulwich for my cousin’s birthday lunch; next time, I’ll check out the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the UK’s oldest art gallery, which also boasts an outdoor gallery of street art; after 11 hours, we’re back home; John lights a fire in our kadai, a giant cauldron fit for roasting small children; I review and annotate the most recent issues of The Week in preparation for my next vlog; I download the Google Art & Culture app which allows you to discover the art and culture destinations in the vicinity of your real time geolocation. It’s a fantastic, invaluable information resource; my stepdaughter tells me about a new app, Smartify, which is the equivalent of Shazam for art; I end the night by watching the Anthony Joshua versus Wladimir Klitschko fight for the heavyweight championship of the world.
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Daily Mind-ful 26 April 2017 (Lavenham Guildhall)

I take my cousins to look at the Bures Dragon, a huge earthscape shaped like a dragon which is the most dramatic example of land art in Suffolk. As an added bonus, Saint Stephen’s Chapel, the grounds of which serve as the de facto viewing stage for the land art dragon, approximately half a mile away and otherwise inaccessible by foot, was open because it was the Easter period. The chapel is a little-known, special historic treat because it’s the chapel for the aristocratic DeVere family, the forbears of the dragon’s creator, Geoffrey Probert, and contains the ancient tombs of several DeVeres, dating back as far as the 13th century. Walking into the small chapel and viewing the tombs, almost perfectly preserved, up close, is not something you’d ordinarily be able to do at a museum, so, being able to see such ancient, museum-quality relics totally undisturbed, in total quiet and serenity, was an unexpected windfall which my cousins enjoyed immensely [I didn’t film inside the chapel because it is a sacred place. But wanted to mention our visit there nonetheless]; we continue our sightseeing tour through Suffolk to Lavenham, the most popular tourist destination in Suffolk, where we visit its best-known building, the Guildhall, which was once the centre of wool trading and then became a workhouse after Lavenham lost its pre-eminent position in the industry. First sight: a stuffed, apotropaic cat. “Apotropaic” means “intended to ward off evil.” ; The harsh lock-up and bare bones mortuary behind the Guildhall; the public footpath system is one of Britain’s greatest public goods and treasures. The footpath system and the corresponding ordnance survey maps allow the public to walk on the public easements crisscrossing the nation’s countryside; entertaining and hospitality are as exhausting as any day at the office; OMFG, HAIL!; WOO HOO! my stepdaughter, Louise Bleach, representing the water desalination technology, Desolenator, wins a HUGE startup competition, Pitch at Palace, over 900 other startup contestants chosen from all over the United Kingdom.
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Daily Mind-ful 25 April 2017 (Cousins)

My cousins arrive this morning; my husband thinks 11 am is too early for lunch but Chinese people always prefer eating earlier than later; my wi-fi solution, utilising the mobile, rather than landline, telephone network, is unbelievably expensive; again, I can’t believe how the British government is letting the countryside languish in Luddite backwardness, adversely impacting economic productivity in huge swathes of the nation; an Instagram friend clued me into the fact that “posh crisps” can sometimes contain high levels of carcinogens called acrylamides; we love entertaining at home but it makes John tense; John can never remember the names of anyone, including my imminently arriving cousins; I can’t believe that Putin has sent troops to North Korea. So glad I’m no longer living in the US! I suddenly realise that the speed limit signs and our car’s odometer are calibrated in miles, not kilometres, as I had believed since moving to the UK, meaning that I’ve been driving much much faster than I ever imagined; Oysters, oysters, oysters on Mersea Island, the home of the Colchester Oyster; the Colchester Oyster Fishery supplies all the starred restaurants in London with oysters; John excels at table setting; Bluebells; a Coalbrookdale cast iron fern chair.
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Daily Mind-ful 20 April 2017 (Facebook)

Still learning to use the video camera before pushing off to Derby for FORMAT 2017; British traffic sucks; Wind farm; Derby is cute and historic; the founder of FORMAT, Louise, not only established the art and film center, QUAD, in Derby. But the UK’s biggest photography festival, FORMAT; clearly, I’ve been slacking and doing nothing these last ten years; when we met in Hong Kong, I had no idea about the magnitude of what she’s built; I assume Derby is safe because there’s no one on the street at night (????); I can’t believe Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s development agenda is so vacuous. Based on the intentions he stated during the recent F8 developer conference, his top technological and commercial priorities boil down to adding idiotic fripperies borrowed from Snapchat and Pokemon Go. The fact that a platform as powerful as Facebook needs to borrow and copy rather than pioneering its own ground-breaking initiatives based on its founder’s deepest ethical and entrepreneurial convictions is disturbing and disappointing enough. But it’s even worse that his top priorities are so devoid of social, political, environmental, cultural value; for example, he should really be implementing innovative, badly needed functionality which automatically identifies and eliminates fake news and enables greater participation in the political process rather than spending tens of millions developing three dimensional smiley face stickers; imagine other multi-billion dollar companies like Unilever, Lockheed Martin or General Electric pursuing similarly mindless agendas: it would be entirely unacceptable to shareholders and the general public. That’s the problem with a thirty-something year old developer (computer science engineer) without any sociopolitical consciousness let alone conscience wielding enormous power. It’s just as worrying to think that this is the sort of person spearheading crucial technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Zuckerberg needs a conscience internship with Bill Gates!; it pissed me off so badly, I taped a full vlog post on the topic.
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Zuckerberg needs to grow up and get a conscience


Facebook announced its principal areas of focus and R&D during this week’s F8 conference. Call me naive. But I’m disappointed (that’s a very mild way to put it) that Mark Zuckerberg is just another tech entrepreneur mindlessly chasing numbers instead of exerting some moral leadership. He needs to grow up and get a conscience – URGENTLY. [I taped this vlog on the spur of the moment explaining the terrible lighting and my weirdly recumbent posture. Notwithstanding the aesthetics, I’m glad I did it.]
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Daily Mind-ful 16 April 2017

It’s the last 1-2% of best effort and attention to detail which engenders true loyalty when you’re building a business or brand. If a handful of people notice, it’s worth it; Now, after many years,
I reject the 80/20 rule; if you’re an artist, why would you ever live in the US any more, I asked Denise,
my friend, the music composer; besides the defunding of the NEA, Americans don’t fundamentally support the idea of building cultural patrimony, which makes it an unsympathetic home for artists, IMO; why is education necessary for good taste? And, if it is, what kind of education is required? I ask Denise why I should use Spotify; I don’t listen to music because I have no reliable means of discovering new high quality music; NO, actually, the real challenge is allocating sufficient time for music discovery; and that’s because I like music too much and can’t do anything else when listening to it; so, paradoxically, I don’t listen to any music at all; Denise reminds me that nothing can actually fill that (music) gap; because music can be accessed and appreciated without any prior knowledge or, as I put it, music can fill you, instantly; for that reason, I don’t like vocal music; in fact, it was Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy who was able to explain in words my dislike of vocal music.
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Daily Mind-ful 9 April 2017

Daily vlog diary: Actually, I know a ton about SEO; But I’m very ambivalent about digital marketing because numbers have usurped the rightful role of senior managers — and their hard-won decades of experience and wisdom; numbers must not, should not dominate decisionmaking, especially when it comes to creativity and entrepreneurial risk-taking; even the luxury industry is being subverted by accountants and statisticians; young people especially tend to put too much stock in numbers; Henry Ford would never have invented the automobile, only a faster horse and carriage, had he been looking at historic sell-through reports only; numbers are the single greatest headwind for creativity today; technology sucks: we feel endlessly busy; kids are so ahead of parents these days, especially my own son (praise god!); SEO is not about technocratic knowledge: it’s about time commitment; today’s SEO tools are so well designed that a monkey can optimize a website (well, not exactly… but close — if you use WordPress); no one steals American passports any more; I feel physically uncomfortable when making “nice”, pretty, happy content; just as well, since the last thing the world needs is more posts of girls saying, “look at my pretty dress”.
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