Sneaking Up On The Generalities

Instead of attacking them head-on.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/22 08:00

In the introduction to the revised edition of Stephen Jay Gould's ever-excellent The Mismeasure Of Man, Gould writes:

If I have learned one thing as a monthly essayist for more than twenty years, I have come to understand the power of treating generalities by particulars. It is no use writing a book on "the meaning of life" (though we all long to know the answers to such great questions, while rightly suspecting that true solutions do not exist!). But an essay on "the meaning of 0.400 hitting in baseball" can reach a genuine conclusion with surprisingly extensive relevance to such broad topics as the nature of trends, the meaning of excellence, and even (believe it nor not) the constitution of natural reality. You have to sneak up on generalities, not assault them head-on. One of my favorite lines, from G. K. Chesterton, proclaims: "Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame."

Emphasis mine. Many of my favorite books, typically nonfiction, have been about the way a humble subject can be opened up to expose tremendous depths. One of the reasons I became a fan of film criticism at a young age was not just because I had early exposure to some of the best such folks around (Ebert), but because of the way a good discussion about a work of art or an art form was a way to talk about the totality of things — "a means of rapid transportation to Life Everlasting, and to Life, period," as John Cage once said about the meaning of music.

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Tags: philosophy  writing 


A photographer deleted his social media presence to save his creative instincts. A wise idea.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/21 08:00

Why I Deleted All of My Social Media and 60,000 Followers

... social media trains us to create and post in a manner that pleases the apps’ algorithm. If a post does really well and followers respond well to a certain kind of image or technique, we begin to form a Pavlovian drive to replicate that response.

For example, when I post an image with a lot of red or shutter drag, those images would outperform my other posts by two or three times. Over time this began to motivate me to not only post more images with movement or red, but I would also shoot more in that manner. My art was becoming a meme.

Aside from the social media affecting the type of work that I create, there is also the human element to consider. Personally, I am someone who gleans much of my information through external data points. I overthink everything. This makes social media a minefield for someone like me. I would analyze likes and follows and unfollows and draw conclusions based on what were likely benign engagements, and I would arrive at concrete and final conclusions that negatively impacted real-life relationships.

... I personally believe that humans aren’t built to have relationships with thousands of people. We can care for a core group of friends and family, and beyond that our interactions will be short and shallow, and relationships will inevitably fall between the cracks. 

Emphasis mine.

Anyone creating for an audience larger than themselves will eventually run into the issue of how to process and use feedback from their audience. This is an art at least as complex as the art of creation itself, because it requires you to do all kinds of difficult and counterintuitive things. You have to hear out good advice when it comes from bad people, and ignore bad advice when it comes from someone close and trustworthy.

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Tags: creativity  social media 

The Passive Type

Zen as nonintellectual, rather than anti-intellectual. But also non-passive.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/20 08:00

Some time back, when I was a relatively new student of Zen, I mentioned the fact that I was such a student offhandedly to someone. I knew this person not better than casually, so their opinion wasn't of much consequence to me. What took me aback was the dismissive response: "I don't like Eastern religions, they're too passive." So I asked him about that TV show he had mentioned a couple of sentences back, and he went off on that tack for a good ten minutes.

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Tags: Buddhism  Zen  intellectualism  philosophy  thought 

Forest, Trees, Fox, Hedgehog

On the difference between foxes and hedgehogs.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/16 13:00

A good insight:

Stumbling and Mumbling: Non-expiring information

I’m also doubting the relevance of the ancient distinction between foxes (which know many things) and hedgehogs (which know one big thing). The important thing isn’t whether you know one thing or many things, but whether you what what’s relevant and what’s not.

I do like the fox/hedgehog distinction, but I think Chris's point is valid. A lot of trivia is not materially more useful than only a handful of trivia, and a lot of valid wisdom is far more powerful than both a little wisdom and any amount of trivia.

On the other hand, fox/hedgehog may never have been intended as an important distinction in the sense of which method is more useful. The reason for making the distinction is about understanding how different people can see the world, and to what end. Some people see a forest, some see a few trees. If you know what inclination that person has, you have some idea of how to approach them, how to interpret their interpretations of things.

Tags: philosophy 

Genji Press: Projects: The Mud Of The First Draft

Notes from early on in the first draft of the new novel, 'The Fall Of The Hammer'.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/15 17:00

I haven't been posting much the last few days, not because of the site upgrade that temporarily borked my blogging software (or because of the idiotic self-inflicted political chaos that has become the hallmark of this moment in time) but because I've been up to the elbows and shins in writing the first draft of The Fall Of The Hammer. A couple of insights have already surfaced.

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Tags: The Fall Of The Hammer  writing 

Resuming Regular Service

We're back!

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/15 10:24

I couldn't post anything to my site for a while due to a problem with my hosting provider (they upgraded and broke something), but they got everything squared away last night. Kudos to A2Hosting for handling it well. If I'd been running WordPress, odds are you wouldn't have been able to even read the site. Static content generation for the win!

Tags: excuse our dust 

The Firstest With The Mostest

If remakes are trash, it's because the true potential of such a project is not the motive.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/02/09 13:00

Some time back I noted that in technology, it doesn't matter to anyone except historians, patent lawyers* and nerds who did something first. It matters who does something best, because that's the only part of it the majority of us are ever going to have any commerce with.

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Tags: movies  remakes 

See more posts from February 2019

Genji Press

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