I love and hate Medium (the blogging platform founded by ex-twitter Evan Williams) equally. I might hate it more than I love it since I am clearly not using it for my blog. I appreciate that it has become a platform for many voices that otherwise might have never ventured to online blogging. However, it’s also a trap for its users, who might find that leaving the space once they outgrow it is not possible.
Matthew Butterick summarizes it best”
Whereas the traditional typewriter offered freedom at the cost of design, the billionaire’s typewriter offers convenience at the cost of freedom.
~The Billionaires Typewriter
I dislike Medium for many reasons but I believe there is a place in the web for tools that ask the absolute bare minimum of its users. Not everybody has the time—or inclination—to figure out what WordPress is all about, and how to get it up and running.
Medium also differs from earlier blogging services in a significant, contrarian way: it offers you, the writer, nearly zero options for the presentation of your stories. No matter what kind of story you write, or who your readers are, it gets packaged into a single, non-negotiable template.
~The Billionaires Typewriter
And to the question “how does Medium improve the Internet?” Well… it exists, it has a point of view. If you don’t like it, code your counter argument.
While in the Mission today I went on a little trip to the bookstore Dog Eared books. Here are the books that I found the the ones that I took home with me.
- The Geometry of Art and Life, caught my eye, because any book which title includes Art and Science will always grab my attention.
The Hero With a Thousand Faces, because I am now reading The Writer’s Journey which is an analysis of Campbell’s book.
Children of Dune, because I am always tempted to get started again with Herbert’s saga
Reamde, because I stopped reading it after 100 pages and I should probably pick it up again and finish it.
The Art of Choosing, because I saw that Hugh Howley is currently reading it, and because the irony of the title didn’t escape me.
Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, Just because of the topic (“[…]the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change.”) and the nice details in the cover.
The Octopus: A Story of California, because I love simple titles. One, two words. A name. An idea. No more.
A Field Guide to Insects, this might seem like a strange choice but insects are cool and every now and then I have to pause and ask myself, what if I leave it all behind and dedicate the rest of my life to the study of insects?
The Poetics of Space, because the title intrigued me and the passages I read too.
Bachelard takes us on a journey, from cellar to attic, to show how our perceptions of houses and other shelters shape our thoughts, memories, and dreams.
The final choices
After an hour in the bookstore and being tempted by the titles above and more, here are the books I got:
- Cinematic Design, a 1931 book, with zero review online (how is that even possible?). Listen to the back cover
“Cinematic Design” is a handbook for the amateur cinema artist and those lovers of the motion picture to whom visions of beauty, mirrored by the crystal lens, transcend all trivial representations that have marred adequate expression and labelled the motion picture as unworthy of consideration as an art.
Well that is a great description of me if there ever was one!
- Tales of the City, because I read it 15 (20?) years ago and I fell in love with The City even before knowing I would move to San Francisco one day.
The honorable mention
I Was a Teen-Age Dwarf, because just look at that cover—and that title!
A recent study has found that the inner structure of long-form classic books follows a “cascading (avalanche) narrative structure” comparable to multifractals (fractals of fractals).
Fractals are mathematical patterns that show the same structure at different scales. They appear in nature and are easily simulated with computers since they are based on a simple recursive algorithm.
The academics write in their paper that: “Studying characteristics of the sentence-length variability in a large corpus of world famous literary texts shows that an appealing and aesthetic optimum … involves self-similar, cascade-like alternations of various lengths of sentences.”
—Scientists find evidence of mathematical structures in classic books
James Joyce’s Finnegans wake, Annotated by Danis Rose
Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce set the record in this study for “multifractality”. (Why am I not surprised?)
“The absolute record in terms of multifractality turned out to be Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce. The results of our analysis of this text are virtually indistinguishable from ideal, purely mathematical multifractals,” says Prof. Drozdz.
[..] Interestingly, in the analyzed pool of all the works, [stream of consciousness] turned out to be exceptionally multifractal in nature.
—The world’s greatest literature reveals multifractals and cascades of consciousness
It is also interesting to see that written streams of consciousness can have signs of inner mathematical order to such degree.
Finnegans Wake, handwritten manuscript by James Joyce
Fairy tales have an oral tradition that goes far back than we ever knew. A new study suggests that some stories written in the 17th and 18th century such as Beauty and the Beast and Rumplestiltskin, can be traced back to tales that appeared between 2,500 and 6,000 years ago.
Dr Jamie Tehrani, one of the authors behind the study says:
“Some of these stories go back much further than the earliest literary record and indeed further back than classical mythology – some versions of these stories appear in Latin and Greek texts – but our findings suggest they are much older than that.”
Beauty and the Beast. Walter Crane (British, Liverpool 1845–1915 Horsham) via http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/348106
The importance of this finding is the notion of how important stories have been through human history, and how powerful some plots can be. This idea of fundamental story structures is also expressed by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
The author and academic Marina Warner, who has written a history of fairytales, called the paper “fascinating”. “What’s interesting to me is it shows how deeply this creative power of the imagination lies in the human being, how it’s about making sense of your world by inventing narratives that resist its difficulties,” —Fairytales much older than previously thought, say researchers
The Journey Is The Destination—the book—is a beautiful reprint of Dan Eldon diaries. Dan was in his early twenties when he traveled Africa and documented his trips in a series of journals. His notebooks have a fresh, unplanned, imperfect quality to them, as well as depth and beauty.
The Journey Is The Destination—the title—has always been something of a personal motto to me. The act of creation has intrinsic value whatever the outcome might be.
This blog is a journey—and a destination.