“Stop thinking of art as an activity totally separate from the human activity; but rather as a part of being human and part of life that is intrinsic, not as a separate event.”
Milton Glaser (via)
“Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.”
Archaeologists from the University of Liverpool have discovered that the same brain activity is used for language production and making complex tools:


  Our study found correlated blood-flow patterns in the first 10 seconds of undertaking both tasks.  This suggests that both tasks depend on common brain areas and is consistent with theories that tool-use and language co-evolved and share common processing networks in the brain.


Tool making and language are really just the same thing—creativity affirming our humanity.

Archaeologists from the University of Liverpool have discovered that the same brain activity is used for language production and making complex tools:

Our study found correlated blood-flow patterns in the first 10 seconds of undertaking both tasks. This suggests that both tasks depend on common brain areas and is consistent with theories that tool-use and language co-evolved and share common processing networks in the brain.

Tool making and language are really just the same thing—creativity affirming our humanity.

“Your job is to be human. First, be human.”
“Lead with your heart first. Let people see that you’re human and that there’s a human side. Show people that you have compassion. It doesn’t mean that you don’t set expectations and standards. But if you lead with your heart, people figure out whether you’re genuine, whether you’re real.”
“We complain about how lonely technology makes us and how awful social media can be. But this is often a loneliness of our own making. We fuel our own jealousies, don’t know how to limit our own obsessions, binge and purge. We make a thousand “friends,” though we scoff nervously at the notion of a real connection. There is nothing so worthy of an eye roll as someone using technology to be sincere, and yet on any given Saturday night there we are, a nation of us, checking in and tweeting our hearts out in hopes that someone will know where we are, and respond. It’s not technology that’s making us lonely. Most often, we just are lonely. What we do with technology is up to us.”

—Leah Reich, Disconnect

A beautiful piece on social media and technology and life and sickness and emotion and connections. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

I quoted a bit of this video in yesterday’s piece on story, but the entire thing is worth watching. Documentarian Ken Burns discusses the power of storytelling, where 1+1=3, or the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. His enthusiasm is contagious and the short film is an inspiring insight into the art of story and what it means to be human.

“You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people; design is made for people.”
Dieter Rams, from this 1976 speech

Jonathan Harris is doing things on the web that not many are attempting. While most view social media as a way to bring us closer together, Harris feels there is a still a large disconnect, something is missing in our interactions online. To help close that gap, he founded Cowbird, a site that’s meant to allow people to share their life stories—raw and unedited, large and small.

I’ve been following Harris’s work for a few years now and am a firm believe in his mission to inject some human into our digital lives. In this talk, he talks about the ideas that led him to start Cowbird and a bit of his own story and struggles. There is a raw humanity that runs through all his work and this talk really highlights that and makes me hopeful for a better, more deeply connected online experience.

“An artist’s job is to sit outside what’s happening and reflect back to us where the human is in this.”
“A book is a flexible mirror of the mind and the body. Its overall size and proportions, the color and texture of the paper, the sound it makes as the pages turn, and the smell of the paper, adhesive and ink, all blend with the size and form and placement of the type to reveal a little about the world in which it was made. If the book appears to be only a paper machine, produced at their own convenience by other machines, only machines will want to read it.”
The Olduvai handaxe is largely believed to be the first great invention. A stone handaxe is like a prehistoric Swiss Army knife—an essential tool with multiple uses like drilling, cutting trees and meat or scraping bark. What’s most interesting about the handaxe, however, is that it is obvious there was a thoughtfulness and care put into it’s construction. It was intentional.
Maybe you could put it this way: the handaxe is the first glimpse in history of conceptual thought. Humans and animals have used found tools since the dawn of time, but with this axe, someone had to imagine something useful within a rough stone. And then craft it.
Looking at a handaxe, Sir James Dyson of Dyson vacuum cleaner fame observes:
What interests me about this is that it’s not really very practical. It’s double-sided, it has a sharp edge both sides, and it’s symmetrical. It’s almost as though it’s an object of beauty rather than a practical object. So I wonder actually if it’s a decorative thing, or even something like a ceremonial sword to make you look brave, powerful, and maybe to pull women.
The handaxe, of course, does have a practical use and has been found all over the world from Africa to Europe to East Asia to the Middle East. The handaxe shows human’s ability to see potential in the world around us but it also shows a desire for beauty, for decoration, for aesthetics. The handaxe is the first great invention and maybe, just maybe, the beginning of art.
See Also: The BBC’s History of the World in 100 Objects episode on the Olduvai Handaxe.

The Olduvai handaxe is largely believed to be the first great invention. A stone handaxe is like a prehistoric Swiss Army knife—an essential tool with multiple uses like drilling, cutting trees and meat or scraping bark. What’s most interesting about the handaxe, however, is that it is obvious there was a thoughtfulness and care put into it’s construction. It was intentional.

Maybe you could put it this way: the handaxe is the first glimpse in history of conceptual thought. Humans and animals have used found tools since the dawn of time, but with this axe, someone had to imagine something useful within a rough stone. And then craft it.

Looking at a handaxe, Sir James Dyson of Dyson vacuum cleaner fame observes:

What interests me about this is that it’s not really very practical. It’s double-sided, it has a sharp edge both sides, and it’s symmetrical. It’s almost as though it’s an object of beauty rather than a practical object. So I wonder actually if it’s a decorative thing, or even something like a ceremonial sword to make you look brave, powerful, and maybe to pull women.

The handaxe, of course, does have a practical use and has been found all over the world from Africa to Europe to East Asia to the Middle East. The handaxe shows human’s ability to see potential in the world around us but it also shows a desire for beauty, for decoration, for aesthetics. The handaxe is the first great invention and maybe, just maybe, the beginning of art.

See Also: The BBC’s History of the World in 100 Objects episode on the Olduvai Handaxe.

“People are interested only in themselves. If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And here I make a rule—a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting—only the deeply personal and familiar”

—John Steinbeck, East of Eden

This is one of those books that’s been on my list to read for a few years now, always putting it off to read something newer to relevant to my interests or shorter. I’d finished the rest of the books on my list that I already own and not wanting to buy another, I knew it was time.

East of Eden is one of the best books I’ve read. I’d say it now sits alongside Lust for Life as one of my favorite novels. And like Lust for Life, the reason it’s so great is because it’s tells one of those eternal stories. It’s about love and loss, jealously and betrayal, success and failure. 

The quote above was spoken by the character Lee in the book, someone who continually provided insight into the story and into life and I think that quote is the perfect description of what East of Eden is. It’s a book about the human story.

“We are becoming more isolated than ever before. People used to talk face to face, then communicate through the phone every once in a while, then phone calls dominated conversations, and now apparently people would much rather text than call one another. We’re heading to a place where we’re becoming colder as a race than ever before.”
Poignant insight from Wael Khairy’s review of Spike Jonze’s short film I’m Here. I absolutely love the film and this review really gives it the praise it deserves. It’s interesting how a film with robots as its main characters can actually tell a heartfelt story about what it means to be human.
“It is quite possible—overwhelmingly probable, one might guess—that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology.”