“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations. Architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable. Originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said, ‘It’s not where you take things from. It’s where you take them to.’”—Jim Jarmusch (via kadrey)
I went to my boss and said to him, “You know, I’m going to go do this crazy thing and I’m going to start this company selling books online.” This was something that I had already been talking to him about in a sort of more general context, but then he…
I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites. Billy Connolly said: “Don’t vote, it encourages them,” and, “The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one.”
I don’t vote because to me it seems like a tacit act of compliance; I know, I know my grandparents fought in two world wars (and one World Cup) so that I’d have the right to vote. Well, they were conned. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing to vote for. I feel it is a far more potent political act to completely renounce the current paradigm than to participate in even the most trivial and tokenistic manner, by obediently X-ing a little box.
Total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic system is what interests me, but that’s not on the ballot.
What does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.) But even more, it shows that most people in these jobs are ultimately aware of it. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a corporate lawyer who didn’t think their job was bullshit. The same goes for almost all the new industries outlined above. There is a whole class of salaried professionals that, should you meet them at parties and admit that you do something that might be considered interesting (an anthropologist, for example), will want to avoid even discussing their line of work entirely. Give them a few drinks, and they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their job really is.
How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist?This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well.
Even more perverse, there seems to be a broad sense that this is the way things should be. This is one of the secret strengths of right-wing populism. You can see it when tabloids whip up resentment against tube workers for paralysing London during contract disputes: the very fact that tube workers can paralyse London shows that their work is actually necessary, but this seems to be precisely what annoys people. It’s even clearer in the US, where Republicans have had remarkable success mobilizing resentment against school teachers, or auto workers (and not, significantly, against the school administrators or auto industry managers who actually cause the problems) for their supposedly bloated wages and benefits. It’s as if they are being told “but you get to teach children! Or make cars! You get to have real jobs! And on top of that you have the nerve to also expect middle-class pensions and health care?”
If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.
The consumer PC market will implode quicker than anybody thinks
That looks a lot like the future of the consumer computing market to me. Personal computers will be a relatively expensive high-end product that people buy every five or seven or 10 years, when their old one breaks or becomes absolutely unusable. Sort of like big-screen TVs. Some of those PCs will be notebooks, but people won’t use them portably as much as moving them from room to room around the house.
For everything else, people will buy tablets. The second (and third, and fourth) computer in every house will be a tablet. Every kid’s first computer (after their smartphone) will be a tablet. If you take a computer on vacation, it will be a tablet. Eventually, the computer most of us take on work trips will probably be a tablet, too. (Whether it runs Windows, OS X, Android, iOS, or something else — that remains to be seen.)
“It’s just too difficult to beat an obsessed entrepreneur…”—I love this quote from Knewton founder Jose Ferreira’s post There’s a Reason It’s Called “Venture” Capital, especially since he used as an example Facebook’s inability to dislodge Foursquare with “Places” — his observation: “it’s especially difficult to beat someone else by copying something that they are zealous about and which launched before you did.” (via donnabrewingtonwhite)
How Microsoft Lost Its Way, as Understood Through The Wire
Last week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer issued a vast formal memo setting out “a far-reaching realignment of the company,” one that would bring together its “silo” divisions to create “serious fun so intense and delightful that [it] will blur the line between reality and fantasy.” Despite the hyperbolized doublespeak, the go-to cliché for a corporate reorg of this type is “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” But to understand what’s happened at Microsoft during the past decade—as their bread-and-butter PC sales have declined, as their products (save for the Xbox) have stagnated, as Apple and Google and Amazon have lapped them on every course, as their stock has remained flat while Apple’s has soared by 4,000 percent—we wouldn’t look to a century-old passenger liner disaster. To really grasp the decline and fall of Microsoft, we need to look to the landmark HBO series The Wire.
Avon Barksdale, October 2004: Marlo. Who the fuck is Marlo? An independent with no fucking support got all the prime real estate and we doing what exactly? Young boy ran us off the corner? … Since when do we buy corners? We take corners.
Steve Ballmer, November 2004 (as quoted in a sworn affidavit by former Microsoft engineer Mark Lucovsky): Fucking Eric Schmidt is a fucking pussy. I’m going to fucking bury that guy. I have done it before, and I will do it again. I’m going to fucking kill Google.
“It is painful to say this: Trayvon Martin is not a miscarriage of American justice, but American justice itself. This is not our system malfunctioning. It is our system working as intended. To expect our juries, our schools, our police to single-handedly correct for this, is to look at the final play in the final minute of the final quarter and wonder why we couldn’t come back from twenty-four down.”—Ta-Nehisi Coates, on Trayvon Martin and the George Zimmerman trial. (via theatlantic)
The psychological impulse to protect a nation’s wealth and culture from foreign contamination is an example of what behavioral economists call “loss aversion” - the idea that people are more concerned about what they might forfeit than gain from change. History tells us that with great power comes great loss aversion.
These trends discussed in above blog post are underlining that the future of business mainly will evolve from replacing the traditional hierarchical companies with younger and structurally different organizations, rather than transforming the old ones. Think about that when you are starting your next large restructuring project within your corporation!
The debate over affirmative action has never had anything to do with reducing inequality; it’s always been about justifying it. That’s what it means to call affirmative action a class project. The economic function elite colleges perform is to separate the few winners from the great mass of losers in American life and the function of both racial and economic affirmative action is just to make sure that everyone believes those winners are chosen fairly. What the dispute’s about, in other words, is what color the elite will be and whether or not a few more of them will come from working class families, not about how to diminish the gap between them and everybody else. So whoever wins, the vast majority loses. And this is true not only of affirmative action but of all the commitments to anti-discrimination that have come to occupy the center of American social justice. After all, the whole point of anti-discrimination is not to make people less poor but only to make sure that their poverty is not an effect of racism or sexism—to make sure that the average worker at, say, Wal-Mart, earns only 1/523rd as much as the CEO not because she’s black or a woman but because she’s only 1/523rd as valuable as the CEO.
In other words, anti-discrimination is a class project as well. Its ideal is not a world where the worker is a little less poor and the CEO a little less rich; it’s a world where the worker deserves her poverty and the CEO deserves his wealth. Which isn’t to say that anti-discrimination is, in itself, bad; it’s to say instead that it’s not in itself good, or at least not good enough. Unlinked to any project of redistribution, it functions less as the critique of inequality than as its good conscience.
“We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and there is no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified — how can you live and not know? It is not odd at all. You only think you know, as a matter of fact. And most of your actions are based on incomplete knowledge and you really don’t know what it is all about, or what the purpose of the world is, or know a great deal of other things. It is possible to live and not know.”—
Peter Thiel, expressing his dissatisfaction with technology’s progress, recently noted, ‘We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.’ Do you agree with him?
I feel sorry for Peter Thiel. Did he really want flying cars? Flying cars are not a very efficient way to move things from one point to another. On the other hand, 20 years ago we had the idea that information could become available at your fingertips. We got that done. Now everyone takes it for granted that you can look up movie reviews, track locations, and order stuff online. I wish there was a way we could take it away from people for a day so they could remember what it was like without it.
We live in a society where romantic love is idealized: if we search long enough, we will find “the one,” the soulmate who is perfect for us, who will grow and change at the exact same rate we do, who loves us exactly as we are and never expects us to change, who always wants us sexually, never has bad breath or gets grouchy, and is perfectly desirable in every way. We expect our partner to fully meet us on an intellectual, physical, sexual, and spiritual basis; to be our lover, best friend, a companion, confidante, confessor, therapist, and family, all rolled into one. This sets up monumental expectations which all of us invariably fall short of.
"It’s not about passion. Passion is something that we tend to overemphasize, that we certainly place too much importance on. Passion ebbs and flows. To me, it’s about desire. If you have constant, unwavering desire to be a cook, then you’ll be a great cook. If it’s only about passion, sometimes you’ll be good and sometimes you won’t. You’ve got to come in every day with a strong desire. With passion, if you see the first asparagus of the springtime and you become passionate about it, so much the better, but three weeks later, when you’ve seen that asparagus every day now, passions have subsided. What’s going to make you treat the asparagus the same? It’s the desire."
“We want to believe in talent. As Jean-Paul Sartre put it, “What people would like is that a coward or a hero be born that way.”, knowing that it protects us by degrading the very achievements that it pretends to elevate; magically separating us from those that are great athletes, ensuring that we are incompatible with them; and relieving those of us who are not excellent of responsibility for our own condition. “To call someone ‘divine’” Friedrich Nietzche once wrote, “means ‘Here we do not have to compete.’” In the mystified notion of talent, the unanalyzed pseudo-explanation of outstanding performance, we codify our own deep psychological resistance to the simple reality of the world, to the overwhelming mundanity of excellence.”—
Daniel Chambliss, The Mundanity Of Excellence
Excellence, Chambliss shows us in his study of great swimmers, does not arise from talent — usually discovered only after athletes begin to win regularly — nor from hard work, as he found by comparing the routines of the great and not-so-great. Excellence comes from deliberate practice:
the doing of actions, ordinary in themselves, performed consistently and carefully, habitualized, compounded together, added up over time. While these actions are “quantitatively different” from those of performers at other levels, these differences are neither unmanageable nor, taken one step at a time, terribly difficult.
Ignacy Paderewski, the musician, once said, ‘Before I was a genius, I was a drudge.’
So, be aware that ‘talent’ is an afterthought, and working ‘hard’ is optics. The tie that connects those involved in great work is their focus on their process, their obsession on deliberate practice: writing every morning before work, swimming the laps with the hands and feet just so, or playing the same concerto, very carefully but with brio, 100 times.
The most important takeaway is to work on your practice: it is a tool above all others, and one that we use to shape ourselves, a tiny bit every day.
"Larry Page lives by the gospel of 10x. Most companies would be happy to improve a product by 10 percent. Not the CEO and cofounder of Google. The way Page sees it, a 10 percent improvement means that you’re basically doing the same thing as everybody else. You probably won’t fail spectacularly, but you are guaranteed not to succeed wildly."
More I read about Larry Page, more I like him. Right person to lead Google.
Yes, you read it right and it’s not from Onion. Kinda like, you buy a car, the dealer locks it and to unlock it you now have to pay the dealer or go to jail. Corporations win, consumers lose. Asinine.
Subsidy model is disconnected from the actual purchase of the phone. Subsidies work better for carriers since they can hide the cost. Bet nobody knows how much they’re paying for the actual subsidy ($650-$199). I can bet it’s more Pawn shop rates rather than Bank rates. Why not charge real price and offer financing (la T-mobile)? But that’s too transparent for most carriers.
Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.
When you meet a man in the doorway of a Mexican restaurant who later kisses you while explaining that this kiss doesn’t “mean anything” because, much as he likes you, he is not interested in having a relationship with you or anyone right now, just laugh and kiss him back. Your daughter will have his sense of humor. Your son will have his eyes.
The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.
One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.
I would argue that your rationalizations speak to how numb we are in this society to gun violence and murder. We’ve come to accept our insanity. We’d prefer to avoid seriously reflecting upon the absurdity of the prevailing notion that the second amendment somehow enhances our liberty rather than threatens it.
How many young people have to die senselessly? How many lives have to be ruined before we realize the right to bear arms doesn’t protect us from a government equipped with stealth bombers, predator drones, tanks and nuclear weapons?
Our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.
In a Thanksgiving message titled “A letter to a friend,” Pinkett-Smith wrote, “This subject is old but I have never answered it in its entirety. And even with this post it will remain incomplete… Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be. More to come. Another day.”
So let’s forget about the rich and ultrarich going on strike and stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if — gasp — capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased. The ultrarich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities.
All of America is waiting for Congress to offer a realistic and concrete plan for getting back to this fiscally sound path. Nothing less is acceptable.
In the meantime, maybe you’ll run into someone with a terrific investment idea, who won’t go forward with it because of the tax he would owe when it succeeds. Send him my way. Let me unburden him.
- Some straight talk from Waren Buffett. Read more