A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...
Posts tagged "sam anderson"
Nov 11, 2012
Wayne Coyne at the basketball game
Sam Anderson wrote a great piece in today’s NYTimes magazine about the rise of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The team is so popular with the city that even basketball non-fans like Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne goes to the games:
Coyne admits that at Thunder games, he doesn’t always understand what’s going on. “It’s not like a Steven Spielberg-scripted event when you’re there,” he told me. “You’re like, Well, did we win? I’m confused. Did they win? And then you look up and you’re like, Well, is the game over?”
He said he has been yelled at by other fans for cheering for Kobe Bryant. (“That was wicked! Who is that?” he shouted the first time he saw Kobe score. The crowd told him that it was Kobe and suggested, forcefully, that he stop cheering for him. “But that was wicked!” Coyne responded.)
I can so relate.
Oct 12, 2012
One of the human brain’s many tricks is that it automatically finishes unfinished things. This is remedial psychology — Sensation-Perception 101. If we see part of a circle, our mind closes it. If we see part of a word, our mind fills in the mssng lttrs. Something analogous happens, I think, with unfinished novels: we always end up finishing them with something. We fill in the blanks, unconsciously, with what is closest at hand: the gestalt, the legend, the vibe, the tone, the aesthetic of the author in question. This is, after all, part of what a great author does: he trains us not just to receive his vision but also to extend it — to read the world (its landscapes, people, events, texts) in the peculiar way that he would have read them.
Jan 01, 2012
Aug 22, 2011
A little artist has all the tragic unhappiness and the sorrows of a great artist and he is not a great artist.
William James’ attention exercise: “Draw a dot on a piece of paper, then pay attention to it for as long as you can.”
From Sam Anderson’s excellent, “In defense of distraction”:
James argued that the human mind can’t actually focus on the dot, or any unchanging object, for more than a few seconds at a time: It’s too hungry for variety, surprise, the adventure of the unknown. It has to refresh its attention by continually finding new aspects of the dot to focus on: subtleties of its shape, its relationship to the edges of the paper, metaphorical associations (a fly, an eye, a hole). The exercise becomes a question less of pure unwavering focus than of your ability to organize distractions around a central point. The dot, in other words, becomes only the hub of your total dot-related distraction.
This is what the web-threatened punditry often fails to recognize: Focus is a paradox—it has distraction built into it. The two are symbiotic; they’re the systole and diastole of consciousness. Attention comes from the Latin “to stretch out” or “reach toward,” distraction from “to pull apart.” We need both. In their extreme forms, focus and attention may even circle back around and bleed into one other.
From James’ original text, Talks To Teachers:
From an unchanging subject the attention inevitably wanders away. You can test this by the simplest possible case of sensorial attention. Try to attend steadfastly to a dot on the paper or on the wall. You presently find that one or the other of two things has happened: either your field of vision has become blurred, so that you now see nothing distinct at all, or else you have involuntarily ceased to look at the dot in question, and are looking at something else. But, if you ask yourself successive questions about the dot,—how big it is, how far, of what shape, what shade of color, etc.; in other words, if you turn it over, if you think of it in various ways, and along with various kinds of associates,—you can keep your mind on it for a comparatively long time. This is what the genius does, in whose hands a given topic coruscates and grows.
What information consumes is rather obvious: It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.
Jul 19, 2011
Jun 07, 2011
Without the making of theories I am convinced there would be no observations.
— Charles Darwin (Via Sam Anderson’s sentence of the week.
Been thinking about “we see what we’re looking for” in terms of writing, and especially blogging. I find that when I set up a tag, often it’s a hopeful gesture, as if I’m saying, “Two or three makes a pattern. I’ll bet there’s more. I’ll name this so I can keep track of it and then I’ll keep an eye out for things to add.” And when I start a book, it’s, “There’s something to this. Let’s give this a name and start working on it.” Then the real gathering begins…)
Mar 09, 2011
Today I rarely read anything — book, magazine, newspaper — without a writing instrument in hand. Books have become my journals, my critical notebooks, my creative outlets. Writing in them is the closest I come to regular meditation; marginalia is — no exaggeration — possibly the most pleasurable thing I do on a daily basis.
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