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amreading Commonplace Book ideas science Thinkers writer's inspiration

Favorite Passages: Home

All quotes are from: On the Move: A Life. By Oliver Sacks

In the final pages, of the final chapter of On the Move, Sacks returns to one of his favorite topics – writing.

Journaling was essential for Sacks. He always kept a notebook close:

I started keeping journals when I was fourteen and at last count had nearly a thousand. They come in all shapes and sizes, from little pocket ones which I carry around with me to enormous tomes. I always keep a notebook by my bedside, for dreams as well as nighttime thoughts, and I try to have one by the swimming pool or the lakeside or the seashore; swimming too is very productive of thoughts which I must write, especially if they present themselves, as they sometimes do, in the form of whole sentences or paragraphs.

On using journals as method for talking to one’s self:

My journals are not written for others, nor do I usually look at them myself, but they are a special, indispensable form of talking to myself.

Sacks strays away from the tortured writer narrative. His attitude towards writing is similar to Ray Bradbury.

It’s a pleasure. It’s a joy. It’s an elixir to the chaos of life.

The act of writing, when it goes well, gives me a pleasure, a joy, unlike any other. It takes me to another place – irrespective of my subject-where I am totally absorbed and oblivious to distracting thoughts, worries, preoccupations, or indeed the passage of time. In those rare, heavenly states of mind, I may write nonstop until I can no longer see the paper. Only then do I realize that evening has come and that I have been writing all day.

And after seventy years writing is still fun!

Over a lifetime, I have written millions of words, but the act of writing seems as fresh, and as much fun, as when I started it nearly seventy years ago.

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Uncategorized

At Years End: Our 2020 Favorites

The criteria for our 2020 favorites is simple.

What media did we revisit multiple times in 2020?

Let’s find out.

Interview:

Art of Manliness podcast #587:

How to Get More Pleasure and Fulfillment Out of Your Reading with Professor Alan Jacob and Brett Mckay.

This interview rejuvenated my reading life.

Here Professor Jacobs presents reading on a Whim. The idea that one should read what interests them, rather than what “you’re supposed to”.

Professor Jacobs argues reading shouldn’t be a chore, but rather a pleasurable experience.

You don’t have to read according to an assignment or according to a list of approved texts. Enjoy your freedom. Go out there and follow your whim. And by that, I mean follow that which really draws your spirit and your soul and see where that takes you. If it turns out that you spend a year reading Stephen King novels or something like that, that’s totally fine. That’s not a problem. Read your Stephen King novels, but there are also really good novels.

But whatever it happens to be, if you’re reading young adult fiction for a year, read young adult fiction for a year. After a while, you probably got to have enough of that. But don’t go around making your reading life a kind of means of authenticating yourself as a serious person. It’s just no way to live. So, I would always tell them, “Give yourself a break. Don’t make a list. See where Whim takes you.”

Professor Jacob’s reading advice to his students

YouTube Video:

Kevin Kelly’s 68 Bits of Unsolicited advice

Kevin wrote this as a letter on his 68th birthday as a gift to his son (He practices the Hobbit tradition of birthdays).

Thankfully, he recorded and shared the advice on his YouTube channel. It is a word of encouragement for us all:

There is no limit on better. Talent is distributed unfairly, but there is no limit on how much we can improve what we start with.

– Kevin Kelly

Book:

On the Move: A Life By Oliver Sacks.

This book took 5 years to finish, not because Sacks’ memoir isn’t compulsively readable, but because there were other books I thought I should read instead.

Sack’s life is one to emulate. Not by becoming a neurologist and cultivating a British Accent. But rather by seeing life, all of life – love, career, hobbies travel, failure, success, as an adventure to pursue.

At one time, my father had thought of a career in neurology but then decided that general practice would be “more real,” “more fun,” because it would bring him into deeper contact with people and their lives.

This intense human interest he preserved to the last: when he reached the age of ninety, David and I entreated him to retire-or at least, to stop his house calls. He replied that home visits were “the heart” of medical practice and that he would sooner stop anything else. From the age of ninety to almost ninety-four, he would charter a mini-cap for the day to continue house calls.

Dr. Sack’s on his father’s career

Article:

The life of Philip Glass, by Dan Wang

Dan Wang’s article on Philip Glass’ memoir –Words Without Music was inspiring.

Learning that Glass drove taxis and was a self-taught plumber proves there’s no shame in taking day jobs to support one’s calling.

Learning that Glass didn’t succeed as a full time composer until his forties served as a reminder.

Stamina can take one to the impossible.

Glass didn’t work just as a taxi driver and as a (self-taught) plumber. He also worked in a steel factory, as a gallery assistant, and as a furniture mover. He continued doing these jobs until the age of 41, when a commission from the Netherlands Opera decisively freed him from having to drive taxis. Just in time, too, as he describes an instance when he came worryingly close to being murdered in his own cab.

Movie:

Paterson: written and directed by Jim Jarmusch

Kylo Ren’s new life as a bus driver poet?

I’M IN.

I’m more and more captivated by movies where the stakes aren’t the end of civilization. Paterson is a entertaining example of this idea.

Paterson was also a gateway to the poet William Carlos Williams. Who somehow I’d never heard of before 2020.

Twitter Feed:

Ted Gioia, @tedgioia.

Who else can recommend 4 books that they “consult often” on Duke Ellington. Next level stuff, that.

Gioia’s Annual 100 favorite albums list is a must read. Here’s 2020’s:

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4Panel Friday amreading Art comics

Four Panel Friday (On Saturday): George Herriman’s Krazy Kat


A Krazy Kat Strip from January 22, 1926

Krazy Kat & the Art of George Herriman: A Celebration contains a number of Herriman’s original art pieces.

The Krazy Kat strip above, is “cut and stacked”. A layout method used to fit strips into different newspapers.

Krazy Kat & the Art of George Herriman: A Celebration is the best kind of book. It’s the kind of book you lose an afternoon to. You open a few pages to “have a look”, and an hour later you wonder where the time went.

From: Krazy Kat & the Art of George Herriman: A Celebration

By: Craig Yoe

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amreading Commonplace Book ideas science Thinkers writer's inspiration

Favorite Passages: A New Vision of the Mind

From On the Move: A Life. By Oliver Sacks

Dr. Sacks describing his meeting with the Noble Prize winning physical chemist Gerald M. Edelman:

He then abruptly took his leave, and looking out the window, I could see him walking rapidly down York Avenue, looking to neither side. “That is the walk of a genius, a monomaniac,” I thought to myself. “He is like a man possessed.” I had a sense of awe and envy-how I should like such a ferocious power of concentration! But then I thought that life might not be entirely easy with such a brain, indeed, Edelman, I was to find, took no holidays, slept little, and was driven, almost bullied, by nonstop thinking; he would often phone Rosenfield in the middle of the night. Perhaps I was better off with my own, more modest endowment.

Dr. Oliver Sacks

While Edelman’s drive and single focus is admirable. Sacks goes further, admitting his envy for Edelman. Sacks recognized that while Edelman’s abilities were desirable, there was a freedom in his less “focused” life.

Sack’s intellectual work, a combination of working with patients, writing books, traveling, love for cephalopods, taking piano lessons in his seventies wasn’t “focused”. But it was rich.

A more modest endowment can have benefits.

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4Panel Friday amreading Art comics

Four Panel Friday: Wonder Woman pays Superman a Visit


Happy New Year!

In the last 10 years, comics have become more literary. They’ve explored deeper aspects of the human condition, similar to the great novels.

It’s been a wonderful progression for the form, but its made super hero comics easy to dismiss as frivolous.

Sure, super hero books can be shallow fist fight melees. But they can also be meaningful.

Alex Ross and Mark Waid demonstrate this well as Wonder Woman calls out a graybeard Superman for being a scared, shiftless, ….you get the idea.

From: Kingdom Come

By: Alex Ross, Mark Waid

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4Panel Friday amreading Art comics

Four Panel Friday: Seth. Winter’s Cartoonist.


Merry Christmas!

In my mind each season has a specific cartoonist assigned to it.

John Porcellino is fall. None better than John at depicting a walk on a chilly fall day.

Bill Watterson is summer. Watterson is an all season cartoonist, but his panels of Calvin and Hobbes’ summer break hi-jinks are unforgettable.

We’ll go Charles Schultz for spring. Charlie Brown is a baseball player, no question.

Winter? Which cartoonist leads us into winter best?

SETH.

The drawings in Seth’s classic winter tome – It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken. depict a frigid, contemplative, Canadian winter in a variety of settings:

A packed, pre-Christmas main street.

A government building taking in a snow storm.

A lonely house sitting in silence.

And a windy walk home.

World building at its finest.

See you next week.

From: It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken: A Picture Novella

By: Seth

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amreading Commonplace Book ideas science Thinkers writer's inspiration

Favorite Passages: Voyages

From On the Move: A Life. By Oliver Sacks

Dr. Sacks opens the chapter – Voyages with a reflection on his father’s work ethic and subtle career advice.

At one time, my father had thought of a career in neurology but then decided that general practice would be “more real,” “more fun,” because it would bring him into deeper contact with people and their lives.

This intense human interest he preserved to the last: when he reached the age of ninety, David and I entreated him to retire-or at least, to stop his house calls. He replied that home visits were “the heart” of medical practice and that he would sooner stop anything else. From the age of ninety to almost ninety-four, he would charter a mini-cap for the day to continue house calls.

Dr. Oliver Sacks

After reading this passage Paul Graham’s essay How to Do What You Love came to mind. In that essay, Graham argues one should build a career (I’d argue a life) based on genuine interests, rather than prestige.

Sack’s father intuitively understood this. A neurologist does hold a higher status in society than a general practice doctor. And certainly more than a general practice doctor making house calls. But it was in that general practice, meeting the needs of his fellow man, that Sack’s father built a meaningful life.

I wonder if Dr. Sacks (sr.) had chosen Neurology, would he have had the same enthusiasm and stamina to continue working into his ninety’s?

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amreading Basketball writer's inspiration

Coach Morgan Wooten’s Summer Basketball Workout Sheet (an excerpt)

Source: Where’d You Get Those? New York City’s Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987

By: Bobbito Garcia

We’ve spoken about practice here before.

I love how Bobbito not only kept his off season workout sheet (written by coaching legend Morgan Wooten) into adulthood, but also published it in his book – Where’d You’d Get Those?

Coach Wooten’s off-season workout regimen is a reminder of the importance of practice. Remove the word “basketball” if needed and replace it with painting, forklifting, clarineting, YouTubing…

Whatever skill or hobby you’re wanting to improve at, creating a specific practice routine will help accelerate your progress.

Basketball is a game in which you either get better or you get worse. It has become so highly competitive that in order to perform to the best of your ability at all times, you must work to improve constantly. The summer is the time when a player can work on individual fundamentals that make him a better player.

Coach Morgan Wooten
1. BALL HANDLING (15 minutes)
   A. Pound the ball both hands
   B. Finger tip drills
   C. Pass ball around your mid section
   D. Single leg circle - both legs
   E. Around legs and body both ways
   F. Figure 8 both ways
   G. Figure 8 and drop both ways
   H. Crab run both ways
   I. Side catch
   J. Front catch
   K. Spin ball on finger

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amreading Commonplace Book ideas science Thinkers writer's inspiration

Favorite Passages: City Island

From On the Move: A Life. By Oliver Sacks

After 3 months, I’ve returned to Dr. Oliver Sacks’ memoir – On the Move: A Life.

Reading each page is skiing downhill. A smooth, lightning shot of a journey that slaloms through Dr. Sacks’ curious life.

It’s been a joy.

From the chapter, City Island:

Especially in our early days, I sometimes felt terrified of his directness – terrified in particular, that he would find my writings, such as they were, muzzy, dishonest, talentless, or worse. I had feared his criticisms at the beginning, but from 1971 on, when I sent him Migraine, I was eager for his reactions, depended on them, and gave more weight than those of anyone else.

Dr. Oliver Sacks

Even Dr. Sacks feared critique of his writing. Especially from his friend and correspondent the poet Thom Gunn.

But as much as Gunn’s directness terrified Dr. Sacks, he valued Gunn’s feedback of his writing more than anyone else’s.

Sacks understood Gunn’s feedback would improve his writing.

Sacks also describes Gunn in the opening of the City Island chapter as a tremendous walker:

Thom was always a tremendous walker, striding up and down the hills of San Francisco. I never saw him with a car or a bicycle; he was quintessentially a walker, a walker like Dickens, who observed everything, took it in, and used it sooner or later in what he wrote.

Throughout On The Move, Sacks introduces us to new characters as if you’d be joining them for a Friday dinner party.

Sacks’ detailed descriptions of their character quirks reveal their humanity.

P.S. I want to be considered a tremendous walker!

Categories
amreading Design

Typeface Designer Doyald Young’s Personal Reading List

A person’s reading list is revealing.

But we tend to associate reading lists with authors, English professors, and self improvement podcasts.

So I was surprised when I came across typeface designer Doyald Young’s reading list, by both the number of titles and the content.

There was little in the way of design.

Young’s list of titles include classic literature, memoir, essay collections, and history tomes.

After learning about Young’s pre-design career life, the variety on his reading list comes as less of a surprise.

The life experiences collected as a former bellhop, usher, railroad breakman and junk car dismantler (technical term) must’ve contributed to his varied reading tastes.

Below are the titles that surprised me most. There isn’t an
algorithm here, only an instant reaction.

The descriptions below the titles are Doyald’s words.

One Hundred Years of Solitude—Gabriel Garcia Marquez 
Three generations in a Columbian village 

The Elements of Style—Prof. Strunk and E. B. White 
How to write clearly by two no-nonsense teachers.

Slow Days and Fast Company—Eve Babitz 
A wicked tale of Hollywood, Rolling Stone, and groupies

The Elements of Typographic Style—Robert Bringhurst 
A poet’s expert take on typography, beautifully designed. A classic, vital book.

Young’s reading list was posted in it’s entirety on his wonderful website.

Unfortunately it’s down at the moment.

The remainder of the list is below:

On Photography—Susan Sontag 
Thoughts on images by one of our finest thinkers 

The Proud Tower—Barbara Tuchman 
The events that led to WWI 

The Seven Sisters—Anthony Sampson 
History of the companies that developed the Middle East oil fields 

Growth of the Soil—Knut Hamsen 
A Nobel Prize winner’s take on injustice and farm life 

The Sun King—Nancy Mitford 
The History of Louis xiv, Versailles and lots of gossip 

Conquest of Mexico—William Prescott 
Cortez’s foray into Mexico; adventure, betrayal, wise kings and monks 

Language and Silence—George Steiner 
Artists who abandon their art. Heavy going. Enlightening.

Madame Bovary—Gustav Flaubert 
An elegant tale about vanity. An easy reading classic.

Collected Stories of Paul Bowles 
One of America’s finest short story writers. Penetrating. Bizarre, exotic.

Let it Come Down—Paul Bowles 
A tale of love and madness in the desert

Four Essays on Liberty—Isaiah Berlin 
Heavy going about liberty. Vital.

The Greek Way to Civilization—Edith Hamilton 
An introduction to art, history, culture and politics

Axle’s Castle—Edmund Wilson 
Literary criticism. American writers who fled to Paris after WW1

Stories of Three Decades—Thomas Mann 
Formal, classic stories of the human condition

Patterns in Nature—Peter S. Stevens 
A learned, insightful account of form and texture in nature. Vital.

From:

http://www.doyaldyoung.com/20-books-doyald-recommends/, Doyald Young

https://www.aiga.org/medalist-doyaldyoung/, Marian Bantjes