A Goodbye and a Hello

Update: many of you have asked how to sign up for the newsletter (so far called Insights Newsletter), so here's a handy link to do so:

But first, an apology.  It's been well over a year since my last post, when I promised the imminent announcement of a new project.  For that, I am sorry. What follows is a list of excuses explanations for my delay:

  1. I finally bought a typewriter. (See the image on the right for proof).  Many of the musings that would have ended up on this blog are now in a three ring binder on my shelf.
  2. I moved to Chicago.  This presented NYC Blog?! with an existential crisis from which I am only now recovering.  
  3. Work on said imminent project has taken me longer than I originally expected and has mutated several times since its inception.
  4. General procrastination.

Which leads me to the Goodbye. The result of the above and other forces have led me to finally put to rest NYC Blog?! (formerly, for those who recall, YU Blog?!).    Thank you constant and intermittent readers for sharing this journey of "sporadic comments about New York City, Art and Life (mostly my own)" with me.

As I just looked back to the very first post, I was surprised to see its fitting title, considering the title of the present post: "Hello" published (also fittingly) in November 2005.  Exactly 8 years to the month.  It's nice to know a common thread runs through me after all this time.

And now, the Hello.  That is, hello to PhotoMoments.com and a newsletter.  This is the promised project as grown into these two developments.  PhotoMoments is a photography site I have developed that you can read more about at the link above.  The newsletter will replace many of the musings that would have ended up on this blog, and it will also contain tips and tricks for navigating modern life.  I have yet to think of a name, which may make the Hello a bit premature, but I'm working on reducing #4 from above so here we are.

Well this is it, where this whole thing has gone.  It was fun so far, and all along.


Find Your Outlets! (and two announcements)

I am proud and honored to introduce a new blog, from the illustrious Gadiel Rivkin: The Diversionist.

The pride I feel arises out of the conversation that helped initiate The Diversionist.  Gadi and I were emailing each other regarding a topic of mutual interest, when it occurred to me that his writing style, his passion and his worthwhile perspective were all qualities that should be focused into some kind of outlet.

The idea of outlets, for lack of a better term, has captured my attention as of late. As I told Gadi, "I strongly believe everyone needs as many outlets in their lives that energize them (creatively, physically, spiritually, etc.) as possible." I thought a blog would provide this for Gadi, so I suggested that he start one.  I am honored that he took my suggestion to heart, and I'm psyched that he has provided a new diversion for us all in The Diversionist.

There are several sources for the importance that I ascribe to everyone finding energizing outlets in their lives.  One is the concept of "flow" developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which I read about here:

Finding Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow is the state that arises out of the moment when your skill meets an attainable challenge; when you're involved in something that so captures your focus, time seems to fly by without your noticing.  This state energizes.  How each of us can achieve flow is unique to ourselves, but everyone owes it to themselves to think about what they can do to produce it in their lives.  

I think finding creative outlets is as important as a healthy diet and exercise.  It is so common today for people to spend most of their time engaged in activities that suck energy from them.  While this may be a necessity to get by, I think it's so important to find time for outlets, and as many as possible, be they creative, spiritual, meditative or physical.

Gadi has inspired me to take my own advice.  I'm working on a new project that I'll be posting about shortly, as soon as it's ready.  Stay tuned.


From The Terminator to Wall-E

I've noticed a trend in sci-fi movies over the past several years.  Characters' consciousnesses are more often becoming separated from their bodies.  This occurs in The Matrix, Avatar, even John Carter, to name a few.  These movies portray their characters having grand adventures, all while their physical bodies remain unmoving, seemingly comatose.

Although Keanu can seem comatose even on grand adventures...

Dreaming provides the oldest and easiest analogy to this ability. While our bodies lay there, our minds and selves are off doing who knows what.  But I think a more recent phenomena can explain the increased popularity and occurrence of this trend in storytelling. Namely the Internet.

As more and more of our lives are spent in the digital realm, and thanks to Facebook and other means of networking socially, more and more of our personalities exist outside of ourselves.  Even when we are away from the computer, a version of ourselves exists online with which our friends may interact.   As we undergo our own process of disconnection between body and self, something speaks to us when we see this disassociation played out metaphorically on film.

I am excited to see to where this trend will lead. Will it lead people to believe more strongly in a spiritual or metaphysical realm? Will people feel less like themselves when unable to access the Internet?  And most importantly, what awesome new ways will movies portray this disassociation?

One thing seems true, we as a society are becoming more comfortable with the role of technology in our lives. We have gone from the warning of the dangers of too much faith technology, as found in stories like Frankenstein, to the portrayal of technology as a means of salvation, as found in movies like Wall-E (even if that technology is saving us from the excesses of technology).  If forced to arbitrarily pinpoint the moment of this transition, I would look to sometime between The Terminator and Terminator Two: Judgement Day.  It is in these two movies that our switch from fear to trust begins.  As a representation of this, Arnold as the Terminator goes from attempting to destroy humanity in The Terminator (Frankenstein), to attempting to save it in the Terminator Two (Wall-E).

I can hear the complaints of an older mentality based on a fear of what affect this separation will have.
But I can also feel a growing awe and excitement at what changes this new technology will bring.


On Chess and Typewriters

I decided I want a typewriter.  Something like this:

Within a few days of making this decision, I downloaded a chess app.  Two actually.  

Several days after that, it occurred to me that a singular motive had compelled both thoughts.  You see, I find less and less time in my day for contemplation.  We all spend so much time on g-reader, or gmail or tumblr, or twitter or facebook and constantly switching between all of them, I start to fear my brain is rewiring itself to think in sporadic bursts.  I miss having thoughts that are...deep, or long.  I'm referring to quiet moments of processing, rather than a constant flow of input.  Even just daydreaming (which makes you smarter) more often would be nice.  At the same time, I have to reconcile this feeling with my ongoing love for the aforementioned "distractions".

Writing used to compel the brain to process more thoroughly.  I heard Abraham Lincoln would only write as long as his quill held ink before he stopped to gather his thoughts again.  But take writing this post for example, I keep stopping to add links or images and when I make a typo glaring red lines distract me from my thoughts.  Typewriters are not as slow as writing with a quill, but they present a more contemplative process than does writing on a computer keyboard, where I find myself typing nearly as fast as I think.  Don't get me wrong, this is useful for communicating and allows a stream of consciousness process, which is beneficial in many ways.  But I'm looking for something that will force my brain to think harder about big ideas, rather than faster about many ideas.

I am not sure which came first, whether wanting a typewriter came from a conscious desire to think longer, or whether it made me realize that desire, but after I made the connection between typewriters and chess, the importance of finding more quiet processing time for my brain became clear to me.  Both chess and typewriters impel the mind to think longer and deeper than most of the activities we are now involved in throughout the day.  I have come to crave this.

When I start to fear how constant access to information and instant communication are changing my very thought process, I'm reminded about what I have read in: 
The Information (buy here on Amazon and I get a cut)
which discusses how technology has shaped our thinking throughout history.  Gleick relates how Plato, I think it was, feared the advent of the written word, because he thought it would cause people to lose their memory from disuse.  Gleick also mentions that when the telegraph started to catch on, people were unable to comprehend, at first, that the news and weather they were hearing from other palaces was actually occurring at the same time that they were hearing it.  Before telegraphs, it would take days or weeks for news to get from one place to another, such that people only thought of news as what had occurred in the past.

As the internet grows to consume much of our thought process and daily activity, a similar transformation is taking place, the effects of which we have not yet fully realized.  This change is good.  But with new technology comes new fears, particularly with breakthroughs in communication.  When I start to think of the dangers of this change, I'm reminded of how people reacted to previous leaps in technology, and how those technologies have ultimately benefited society, and I am encouraged.  

While I have faith in the benefits of new technologies and their effects on how we think, I still think it important to avail ourselves of the benefits of older technologies.  It has been satisfying to play chess lately.  I am starting to notice a difference in how I think, though still a subtle one.  I look forward to finding a typewriter and discovering how it affects my thinking.  When I do I'll write on it about my experience and...uh...scan and upload it?


On Our Republic

I Just finished reading: 

A Republic, If You Can Keep It  (buy here on Amazon and I get a cut) 

I've found it prescient.  It was written in 1972, yet speaks to many issues of the day, such as Occupy Wall Street and our stalled congress.  I thought I'd share an excerpt from the book's closing chapter, enjoy:
...It is not belief in or loyalty to the status quo that is essential to responsible citizenship.  It cannot be overstated: we must believe in the purposes for which the government as created; the democratic process by which those purpose can be achieved; and a commitment to an open society with individual liberty, political freedom and equal opportunity for every citizen.

We must believe in law because where there is no law there can be no freedom, particularly for the less advantaged members of society.  When law breaks down, anarchy prevails.  We must look at law, however, not only as an instrument of authority designed to punish but as a means for declaring what is right and prohibiting what is wrong to provide protection for every individual.

The responsible citizen does not live in isolation.  He recognizes that he is a part of a community, a state and a nation, and that in playing his part he must act in relation to, and with consideration for, all others.  His relation to his government, then, is not exclusive-it is shared with all others on an equal basis.  That means that is we are to be useful none of us can be arbitrary and insist upon everything being done to our liking. There must be an underlying appreciation for the necessity of tolerance.  As our Founding Fathers understood, even when our country was small and homespun in its way of life, there was a need for adjustment and compromise to bring the nation into being with a reasonable prospect of success. Now in our greatly enlarged society, every citizen must recognize the infinitely greater necessity to adjust his thoughts and actions to those of the community.  

I'd be curious to hear people's thoughts on these ideas, please share them.


The Faces of OccupyWallStreet

Found Ger(w)aldo

The Drum Circle


Jimmy McMillan Himself.  The rent is not all that's too damn high! 

You can't close your eyes to the Revolution, Corporate America!

Proof OWS are not ALL dirty hippies...

Ah the Accordion, Traditional Instrument of the Revolution

Who Can Argue with That?

"American Stock Exchange"


On an Occupied WallSteet: A Solution

How might the OccupyWallSreet movement effect the changes they seek in the American system? 

To start, by leveling the economic playing field.  The current system requires manufacturers within the US to meet pollution, labor, wage, healthcare and other standards.  These standards impose costs on manufacturers, with the intent of benefiting society.  These standards of manufacturing are not required for goods imported from abroad.  America has thus imposed a double standard, and the American worker suffers as a result of this contradiction.  In the US hourly compensation for production workers was $23.82 in 2006, compared to around $8.00 an hour in Asia (Source).  Not to mention the staggering environmental compliance costs.  Why build American when there are far less costly foreign alternatives?  Competition almost requires corporations to avail themselves of these alternatives.

A solution to the complaints put forth by OccupyWallSreet might be found in advocating for the implementation of regulations requiring that all imported goods meet the same standards as those goods manufactured within the US.  This would level the economic playing field and encourage better working conditions across the globe.  Corporations export or avoid much of the cost of production by manufacturing and importing from aboard, including significant environmental costs.  This solution encourages a higher environmental standard as well.  

By requiring basic pollution, labor, wage and similar standards for all imported goods, America could solve its unemployment woes.  By leveling the playing field, not only would the US raise the global manufacturing standard, it would make its own workers competitive again.  Just as cars must meet safety and pollution standards to be sold within the US regardless of where they are built, so too all goods should meet the basic working and manufacturing standards required here.

Written in conjunction with Larry Grange.  We would appreciate any comments on these thoughts.