Take 12 minutes and watch this brilliant, fascinating Don Letts documentary on music, fashion, politics and style in Skinhead and Rudeboy culture.
Forget about that thing you have to do by tomorrow and read these two articles about procrastination instead. It’s only human nature. And, depending on who you believe, it’s either not all bad – “a practice that illuminates the fluidity of human identity and the complicated relationship human beings have to time”; Or, it’s a “weakness in the face of impulse and a failure to think about thinking…a childish primal human predilection for pleasure and novelty which can never be excised from the soul.”
You decide. Later. After you’ve checked Facebook. Or maybe at the weekend…
Here is James Surowiecki’s review of Procrastination: The Thief of Time, in The New Yorker.
And here is the excellent You Are Not So Smart’s essay.
If you can’t summon the will to click on those links, here they are in full.
The New Yorker:
Some years ago, the economist George Akerlof found himself faced with a simple task: mailing a box of clothes from India, where he was living, to the United States. The clothes belonged to his friend and colleague Joseph Stiglitz, who had left them behind when visiting, so Akerlof was eager to send the box off. But there was a problem. The combination of Indian bureaucracy and what Akerlof called “my own ineptitude in such matters” meant that doing so was going to be a hassle—indeed, he estimated that it would take an entire workday. So he put off dealing with it, week after week. This went on for more than eight months, and it was only shortly before Akerlof himself returned home that he managed to solve his problem: another friend happened to be sending some things back to the U.S., and Akerlof was able to add Stiglitz’s clothes to the shipment. Given the vagaries of intercontinental mail, it’s possible that Akerlof made it back to the States before Stiglitz’s shirts did.
There’s something comforting about this story: even Nobel-winning economists procrastinate! Many of us go through life with an array of undone tasks, large and small, nibbling at our conscience. But Akerlof saw the experience, for all its familiarity, as mysterious. He genuinely intended to send the box to his friend, yet, as he wrote, in a paper called “Procrastination and Obedience” (1991), “each morning for over eight months I woke up and decided that the next morning would be the day to send the Stiglitz box.” He was always about to send the box, but the moment to act never arrived. Akerlof, who became one of the central figures in behavioral economics, came to the realization that procrastination might be more than just a bad habit. He argued that it revealed something important about the limits of rational thinking and that it could teach useful lessons about phenomena as diverse as substance abuse and savings habits. Since his essay was published, the study of procrastination has become a significant field in academia, with philosophers, psychologists, and economists all weighing in.
Posted in Education, Essays
Tagged Cognition, Economics, Education, Emotion, Essays, Hyperbolic Discounting, James Surowiecki, John Lehrer, Procrastination, Psychology, The New Yorker, You Are Not So Smart
“…many thousands of [British] men and women…have sloughed off their native dialects and acquired a new tongue.” – George Bernard Shaw
In the opening line of Big Changes in Black America, his brilliant appraisal of Toure’s Who’s Afraid of Blackness: What it Means to be Black Now, for the New York Review of Books, Darryl Pinckney references an essay by Zadie Smith that had appeared in the same journal in 2009 (based on a lecture given at the New York Public Library in December 2008.) Entitled Speaking in Tongues, he refers to it as “stunning”.
So, I read it. And yes, it is. It is a wonderful, rare piece of writing. One that explores connections between speech, voice, class, race and language; the “complicated back stories, messy histories [and] multiple narratives” that most of us carry; the generational, public and private conflicts over language within societies, and especially black society; pride, shame, diversified race and cultural heritage; pragmatism and “ideological heroism”; the flexibility of the voice.
Smith draws on Shakespeare, Shaw, Keats, even Cary Grant, but pivots around the extraordinary figure of Barack Obama, of whom she writes “seems just the man to demonstrate that between [those] two voices there exists no contradiction and no equivocation but rather a proper and decent human harmony.”
It is a colossal, brilliant, emotional piece of writing.
It is here. Read it.
Posted in Books, Education, Essays, Words & Writing
Tagged America, Barack Obama, Class, George Bernard Shaw, Keats, Language, Race, Shakespeare, Voice, Zadie Smith
Every single thing about this is beautiful. A Child’s Introduction to Jazz by Cannonball Adderley
(…but perfect for all ages.)
Highlighting “the major styles” it is educational, laid back, beautifully narrated, and features legendary jazz figures such as Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Sidney Bechet, Thelonious Monk and Cannonball himself.
(via the Aladdin’s cave that is Open Culture)
Posted in Education, History, Music
Tagged Blues, Canonball Adderley, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington, Education, Fats Waller, History, Jazz, Jelly Roll Morton, Music, Sidney Bechet, Thelonius Monk
“The poetry generally is like a rhythmic articulation of feeling. The feeling is like an impulse that rises within—just like sexual impulses, say; it’s almost as deﬁnite as that. It’s a feeling that begins somewhere in the pit of the stomach and rises up forward in the breast and then comes out through the mouth and ears, and comes forth a croon or a groan or a sigh. Which, if you put words to it by looking around and seeing and trying to describe what’s making you sigh—and sigh in words—you simply articulate what you’re feeling. As simple as that. Or actually what happens is, at best what happens, is there’s a deﬁnite body rhythm that has no deﬁnite words, or may have one or two words attached to it, one or two key words attached to it. And then, in writing it down, it’s simply by a process of association that I ﬁnd what the rest of the statement is—what can be collected around that word, what that word is connected to. “
Read the full interview here.
I like this short film: a look inside the NYT’s legendary picture library, nicknamed “The Morgue”. Here between five & six million prints, contact sheets and 300,000 sacks of negatives are stored. And with the recent launch of their Tumblr, they have begun exploring this incredible resource and bringing the archives back to life online. Possibly helping save “The Morgue” itself.
“The circumstances of our lives actually matter less to our happiness than the sense of control we feel over our lives.”
Another indispensable and hugely entertaining TED lecture from Ogilvy’s Rory Sutherland (Athens, 2011.)
Rory Sutherland: Perspective is Everything (TED Athens, 2011)