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Advice on Life and Creative Integrity from Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson

May 20, 1990: Advice on Life and Creative Integrity from Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson

by Maria Popova

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“The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive.”

‘Tis the season for glorious life advicedispensed by cap-and-gown-clad elders to cap-and-gown-clad youngsters, emanating a halo effect of timeless wisdom the rest of us can absorb any day, at any stage of life. On May 20, 1990, Bill Watterson, creator of the beloved Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, took the podium at Kenyon College — the same stage David Foster Wallace would occupy 15 years later to deliver one of history’s most memorable commencement addresses — and gave the graduating class a gift of equally remarkable insight and impact.

Watterson begins the speech by articulating the same sentiment at the heart ofthe most unforgettable commencement addresses: the notion that not-knowing is not only a part of the journey, but an integral part:

I have a recurring dream about Kenyon. In it, I’m walking to the post office on the way to my first class at the start of the school year. Suddenly it occurs to me that I don’t have my schedule memorized, and I’m not sure which classes I’m taking, or where exactly I’m supposed to be going.
As I walk up the steps to the postoffice, I realize I don’t have my box key, and in fact, I can’t remember what my box number is. I’m certain that everyone I know has written me a letter, but I can’t get them. I get more flustered and annoyed by the minute. I head back to Middle Path, racking my brains and asking myself, “How many more years until I graduate? …Wait, didn’t I graduate already?? How old AM I?” Then I wake up.

Experience is food for the brain. And four years at Kenyon is a rich meal. I suppose it should be no surprise that your brains will probably burp up Kenyon for a long time. And I think the reason I keep having the dream is because its central image is a metaphor for a good part of life: that is, not knowing where you’re going or what you’re doing. Read more of this post

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Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking

Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking [Hardcover]

Douglas Hofstadter (Author), Emmanuel Sander (Author)

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Release date: April 23, 2013

Analogy is the core of all thinking.

This is the simple but unorthodox premise that Pulitzer Prize–winning author Douglas Hofstadter and French psychologist Emmanuel Sander defend in their new work. Hofstadter has been grappling with the mysteries of human thought for over thirty years. Now, with his trademark wit and special talent for making complex ideas vivid, he has partnered with Sander to put forth a highly novel perspective on cognition.

We are constantly faced with a swirling and intermingling multitude of ill-defined situations. Our brain’s job is to try to make sense of this unpredictable, swarming chaos of stimuli. How does it do so? The ceaseless hail of input triggers analogies galore, helping us to pinpoint the essence of what is going on. Often this means the spontaneous evocation of words, sometimes idioms, sometimes the triggering of nameless, long-buried memories.

Why did two-year-old Camille proudly exclaim, “I undressed the banana!”? Why do people who hear a story often blurt out, “Exactly the same thing happened to me!” when it was a completely different event? How do we recognize an aggressive driver from a split-second glance in our rearview mirror? What in a friend’s remark triggers the offhand reply, “That’s just sour grapes”? What did Albert Einstein see that made him suspect that light consists of particles when a century of research had driven the final nail in the coffin of that long-dead idea?

The answer to all these questions, of course, is analogy-making—the meat and potatoes, the heart and soul, the fuel and fire, the gist and the crux, the lifeblood and the wellsprings of thought. Analogy-making, far from happening at rare intervals, occurs at all moments, defining thinking from top to toe, from the tiniest and most fleeting thoughts to the most creative scientific insights.

Like Gödel, Escher, Bach before it, Surfaces and Essences will profoundly enrich our understanding of our own minds. By plunging the reader into an extraordinary variety of colorful situations involving language, thought, and memory, by revealing bit by bit the constantly churning cognitive mechanisms normally completely hidden from view, and by discovering in them one central, invariant core—the incessant, unconscious quest for strong analogical links to past experiences—this book puts forth a radical and deeply surprising new vision of the act of thinking. Read more of this post

Uncommon Genius: Stephen Jay Gould On Why Connections Are The Key to Creativity; “The trick to creativity is to identify your own peculiar talent and then to settle down to work with it for a good long time.”

Uncommon Genius: Stephen Jay Gould On Why Connections Are The Key to Creativity

by Maria Popova

“The trick to creativity, if there is a single useful thing to say about it, is to identify your own peculiar talent and then to settle down to work with it for a good long time.”

“Originality often consists in linking up ideas whose connection was not previously suspected,” wrote W. I. B. Beveridge in the fantastic 1957 tomeThe Art of Scientific Investigation“The role of the imagination is to create new meanings and to discover connections that, even if obvious, seem to escape detection,” legendary graphic designerPaul Rand seconded. Indeed, longer ago than I can remember, I intuited the conviction that creativity is a combinatorial force — it thrives on cross-pollinating existing ideas, often across divergent disciplines and sensibilities, and combining them into something new, into what we proudly call our “original” creations. Paula Scher has likened the process to a slot machine; Dorion Sagan has asserted that science is about connections; Gutenberg has embodied it. And some of history’s most celebrated creators have attested to it with the nature of their genius. Read more of this post

Good Writing vs. Talented Writing; “Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.”

Good Writing vs. Talented Writing

by Maria Popova

“Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.”

The secrets of good writing have been debatedagain and again and again. But “good writing” might, after all, be the wrong ideal to aim for. In About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews (public library), celebrated author and literary critic Samuel Delany — who, for a fascinating factlet, penned thecontroversial 1972 “women’s liberation” issue of Wonder Woman — synthesizes his most valuable insights from thirty-five years of teaching creative writing, a fine addition tobeloved writers’ advice on writing. One of his key observations is the crucial difference between “good writing” and “talented writing,” the former being largely the product of technique (and we know from H.P. Lovecraft that “no aspiring author should content himself with a mere acquisition of technical rules”), the other a matter of linguistic and aesthetic sensitivity:

Though they have things in common, good writing andtalented writing are not the same. Read more of this post

The Essayification of Everything: Why has the form invented by Montaigne — searching, sampling, notoriously noncommittal — become a talisman of our times?

MAY 26, 2013, 3:00 PM

The Essayification of Everything

By CHRISTY WAMPOLE

Lately, you may have noticed the spate of articles and books that take interest in the essay as a flexible and very human literary form. These include “The Wayward Essay” and Phillip Lopate’s reflections on the relationship between essay and doubt, and books such as “How to Live,” Sarah Bakewell’s elegant portrait of Montaigne, the 16th-century patriarch of the genre, and an edited volume by Carl H. Klaus and Ned Stuckey-French called “Essayists on the Essay: Montaigne to Our Time.”

It seems that, even in the proliferation of new forms of writing and communication before us, the essay has become a talisman of our times. What is behind our attraction to it? Is it the essay’s therapeutic properties? Because it brings miniature joys to its writer and its reader? Because it is small enough to fit in our pocket, portable like our own experiences? Read more of this post

Brewing fortunes are not uncommon. But few of these fortunes have been turned into such a successful family office as Quilvest

BEER MONEY

ARTICLE | 23 MAY, 2013 02:43 PM | BY JEREMY HAZLEHURST

When Otto Bemberg set up a brewery in the Argentine town of Quilmes after leaving his native Cologne in 1850, he would no doubt have been pleased that a century and a half later the business he started would produce Argentina’s biggest selling beer, with 75% of the market, that it would sponsor the national football team, and appear in trendy bars the world over. He’d also be chuffed to see a family business in its seventh generation. As a savvy businessman, he might have been even happier that, through its investment arm, the family firm would also spawn one of the world’s largest family offices.

Quilvest, which has $22 billion (€17.1 billion) under management, including $4 billion in the private equity arm, almost 400 employees and 13 offices globally, started life in 1917 in Paris to look after the family’s wealth. These days, Quilvest is divided into two. One side is a multi family office with around 4,000 clients – around 100 of them use it as a one-stop-shop family office, while most of the others use it for individual investments. The other is a private equity house, which has been investing since 1972. And interestingly, the family, which now consists of around 150 members, is still intimately involved with all aspects of Quilvest. Read more of this post

Why People Hate The Google Bus

Why People Hate The Google Bus

Rory CarrollThe Guardian | May 26, 2013, 8:54 AM | 20,507 | 57

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Every morning and every evening the fleet glides through the city, hundreds of white buses with tinted windows navigating San Francisco’s rush hour. From the pavement you can see your reflection in the windows, but you can’t see in. The buses have no markings or logos, no advertised destinations or stops.

It doesn’t matter. Everyone knows what they are. “Transport for a breed apart. For a community that is separate but not equal,” said Diamond Dave Whitaker, a self-professed beat poet and rabble-rouser.

The buses ferry workers to and from Apple, Facebook, Google and other companies in Silicon Valley, an hour’s drive south. They hum with air-conditioning and Wi-Fi. They are for the tech elite, and only the tech elite. Read more of this post

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